Definition Of Full-Time Hours And A Path To Legal Workforce Dominate Society of American Florist Congressional Action Days

The CapitolGrowers, suppliers, florists and garden retailers gathered March 11 and 12 to review issues important to the floriculture industry, then headed to Capitol Hill to meet with dozens of representatives and senators or their staffs on those issues as part of SAF’s Congressional Action Days.

SAF (The Society of American Florists) selected two issues to be the main talking points during congressional appointments: how to define what is a full-time job and finding a way to ensure a legal and reliable workforce for industry growers.

A Need To Refine How ACA Defines Employees

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a complex law, and how it defines employee status has created alarm for SAF and many others in the industry. Specifically, two ACA definitions are in question: What constitutes a full-time employee and how seasonal workers are defined.

Full-Time Status. Currently, ACA defines a full-time work week as 30 hours, a shorter time period than most employers use.

Here’s how it’s phrased in the ACA: “With respect to any month, an employee who is employed on average at least 30 hours of service per week.”

SAF is concerned that the ACA requires employers subject to the statute’s “Shared Responsibility for Employers” provisions to make an affordable offer of coverage to their full-time employees and dependents or face potential penalties.The 30-hour threshold would bring many current part-time employees within this requirement.

Another aspect of the definition that raises concern is the “with respect to any month” phrasing in the law. Traditionally, employers calculate full- and part-time employment on an annual basis. But if it is calculated on a monthly basis for penalties and determining full-time status, that can cause a number of problems.

Determining status on a monthly basis rather than an annual one can lead to confusion about coverage when an employee meets that threshold for one or two months, but none of the others. Does the employer offer coverage for a short amount of time or for the full year? SAF members advocated for the more common definition of 40 hours to be the standard. At the time of the Congressional Action Days visits, SAF was lobbying for two bills to pass:

  • S. 1188: Forty Hours Is Full Time Act Of 2013 in the Senate
  • H.R. 2575: Save American Works Act of 2013 in the House

The House passed H.R. 2575 on April 3, 2014.

Seasonal Employees: SAF members asked their Representatives and Senators to introduce and pass legislation that provides a simple and more accurate calculation for determining seasonal works. They also asked for a clarification that seasonal employment is not full-time employment and to align how seasonality is defined across varying industries and climates.

Another concern SAF has is that seasonal employers believe there is a seasonal exception that removes seasonal workers from the calculation for determining business size and exempts seasonal workers from receiving an offer of coverage. The ACA’s seasonal exception applies only to determining business size, SAF points out, and can only be used by employers whose workforce exceeds 50 full-time equivalent for 120 days or less. And the full-time equivalent includes all hours of service, including seasonal and temporary workers.

SAF objects to both the complexity of how seasonal workers are calculated, especially for smaller employers, and to establishing 120 days as a benchmark for seasonal employment. The 120-day benchmark is not accurate for many businesses across many industries.

As of early April 2014, Congress has not yet taken up the seasonal worker issue.

Giving Foreign Workers A Legal Path To Work

Although the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill in the summer of 2013 (S. 744: Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013), the time allowed for the House to take up the bill is coming to an end. Political maneuvering makes a comprehensive bill unlikely to pass in the foreseeable future, although there is hope that Congress will address immigration reform issue by issue.

In light of this reality, SAF members advocated for Congress to sponsor bills on the issues that most affect the floriculture industry — securing a reliable and legal workforce for growers.

There were two policies the SAF team asked Congress to consider. The first policy was for a bill that creates at-will visas that allow foreign workers to move from grower to grower as crop demands change. The second, backup position was for a more limited visa, in case the first ran into political roadblocks. A contract visa would allow foreign workers to travel to a specified employer, then return to his native country once that contract expired.

The SAF team was quick to point out that this is not a path to citizenship for these workers, but it is a path to give growers a legal, reliable workforce. Speakers at Congressional Action Days claimed that as many as 70 percent of agriculture’s current 1.8 million workers are unauthorized, and many of those are trained, long-term and reliable employees.

The reason for the presence of these workers, SAF points out, is not because of low wages undercutting American’s opportunity to work. Most firms pay rates significantly higher than minimum wage, often with free housing thrown in. The jobs are physically demanding and conducted in all seasons, which makes them unattractive to American workers.

Another issue SAF members lobbied for was for Congress to understand the flaws of the E-Verify system. Employers want to have a quick way to confirm applicants are legal, since un-documented workers being removed later in the season causes significant disruptions. Currently, however, E-Verify is riddled with errors and delays.

Stats That Show The Industry’s Strength

  • Size: Total floriculture sales (including cut flowers, plants and related items) were $34.3 billion in 2012
  • Number Of Floriculture Farms: 26,236

Top 5 Bedding Plants

  1. Geraniums
  2. Impatiens
  3. Petunias
  4. Pansies/Violas
  5. Begonias

 Facts You Might Not Know About Floriculture

  • Tissue culture, first used on orchid plants in the 1950s, led to an entire biotechnology industry.
  • The U.S. Floral industry has taken a leading role in developing methods of non-chemical pest and disease control.
  • Advanced irrigation and fertilization systems first used by the floral industry revolutionized agriculture in arid climates.
Topics:

Leave a Reply

More From Business Management...
Albert Grimm, Jefferys Greenhouses

August 25, 2016

7 Ways Albert Grimm Strives To Be An Effective Leader

Grimm, Greenhouse Grower's 2016 Head Grower Of The Year, tries to live by the "Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People” from author Stephen R. Covey.

Read More
Tidal Creek Growers

August 25, 2016

Maryland-Based SunMed Growers Nabs Cannabis License

The company was one of 15 licensees selected by the commission out of a pool of 145 grower applicants to receive one of the license pre-approvals.

Read More
Albert Grimm GOY feature

August 25, 2016

Up Close And Personal With Head Grower Of The Year Albert Grimm

According to Grimm, Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Head Grower Of The Year, the key to being a successful grower is educating and inspiring yourself, your staff, your customers, and the next generation of growers.

Read More
Latest Stories
Albert Grimm, Jefferys Greenhouses

August 25, 2016

7 Ways Albert Grimm Strives To Be An Effective Leader

Grimm, Greenhouse Grower's 2016 Head Grower Of The Year, tries to live by the "Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People” from author Stephen R. Covey.

Read More
Tidal Creek Growers

August 25, 2016

Maryland-Based SunMed Growers Nabs Cannabis License

The company was one of 15 licensees selected by the commission out of a pool of 145 grower applicants to receive one of the license pre-approvals.

Read More
Albert Grimm GOY feature

August 25, 2016

Up Close And Personal With Head Grower Of The Year Albe…

According to Grimm, Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Head Grower Of The Year, the key to being a successful grower is educating and inspiring yourself, your staff, your customers, and the next generation of growers.

Read More
Penn State Plant Bud

August 23, 2016

AmericanHort Is Helping Plant Importers Adjust To New R…

A report from Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort says the government is implementing a streamlined system for imports, in which all required data will be submitted electronically through a single window.

Read More
LuxFlora - feature

August 22, 2016

Check Out Luxflora’s International Adventures In Europe

A new, women-led professional organization provides its members the opportunity to gain insight, develop ideas, and build connections on its annual international trip.

Read More
MasterTag booth at Cultivate'16

August 17, 2016

5 Nuggets Of Wisdom From Cultivate’16

Here are five sweet pieces from the movers and shakers at Cultivate'16 to help improve your greenhouse business.

Read More
Cannabis ForwardGro

August 16, 2016

ForwardGro Receives License From Maryland Medical Canna…

The company, comprised of expert nursery growers, medical experts, business leaders, and patient advocates, says it can now apply its greenhouse growing experience, medical knowledge, and business expertise to effectively grow quality and consistent medical cannabis.

Read More
GreenhouseConnect 2015 Grower Supplier Meeting

August 16, 2016

5 Reasons You Need To Attend GreenhouseConnect

Greenhouse Grower’s annual event, which will take place Oct. 11-14 in Park City, UT, offers large-scale growing operations the chance to meet one on one with suppliers who can directly address your business needs.

Read More
Farwest Show Floor

August 14, 2016

Mobile App Now Available For 2016 Farwest Show

The app, available as a free download, can help attendees plan for everything from educational sessions to the New Varieties Showcase and Grower Showcase.

Read More

August 13, 2016

Plants Sales Are Up For Fourth Straight Year, According…

Growers declared spring 2016 to be a success in Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 State Of The Industry: Spring Crops Recap Survey.

Read More
Echinacea ‘Butterfly Rainbow Marcella’

August 12, 2016

IR-4 Project Receives Federal Funding For Pollinator An…

Grants from the Specialty Crop Research Initiative will fund IR-4 projects on protecting pollinators through ornamental horticulture, and downy mildew management strategies.

Read More
Emily Teng

August 11, 2016

American Floral Endowment Announces Its 2016 Scholarshi…

This year, thanks to the generosity of several donors, AFE awarded more than $35,000 to 17 students pursuing careers in horticulture.

Read More
Laura Drotleff

August 10, 2016

Customers Need Hand-Holding And TLC [Opinion]

If we want customers to use our plants, we need to provide basic information about the plants we produce.

Read More
Plug Connection Assortment

August 9, 2016

AmericanHort’s Plug And Cutting Conference Will Feature…

This year’s conference, which takes place Sept. 19-21 in Carlsbad, CA, features discussions on water, pest and disease control, and production inputs, as well as a biocontrols workshop and tour of local cuttings facilities.

Read More
Jim Nordlie

August 9, 2016

AFE Establishes Memorial Tribute For Long-Time Rose Gro…

Kennicott Brothers Company, Nordlie Inc., and The Pete Garcia Company established the Jim Nordlie Memorial Tribute through American Floral Endowment in honor of James “Jim” Nordlie, who passed away on July 1 at the age of 93.

Read More
Josh Henry, North Carolina State University

August 8, 2016

Get To Know Joshua Henry, Winner Of The 2016 Richard T.…

Henry, a graduate student at North Carolina State University, is pursuing a Master’s degree in horticultural sciences, with a focus on crop nutrition in bedding plants and flowering potted plants.

Read More
Andy And Micky Buist, Micandy Gardens

August 1, 2016

Micandy Gardens Uses New Technology And Energy Efficien…

With it's through energy efficiency, new technology, or the use of biocontrols, the Micandy ownership family of Andy, Micki, and Marcelyn Buist are constantly looking to make changes that will keep the company strong well into the future.

Read More
Obscura Screens From Svensson feature

July 28, 2016

3 New Products For Cannabis Producers

From screens to fertilizers to lighting, here are three new products that might help enhance your cannabis production system.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]