February 24, 2009

SAF Comments On Forced Unionization Bill

The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), expected to be introduced shortly and supported by President Obama, would amend the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and require businesses to recognize a union if the union collects signed cards from more than 50 percent of employees. The bill effectively denies workers the right to privacy when deciding whether to be represented by a union, says SAF’s Senior Director of Government Relations Jeanne Ramsay. “SAF believes this will lead to coercion and peer pressure by union organizers, employers and co-workers,” says Ramsay. “An employee’s choice of whether or not to join a union should be made in private. The only way to guarantee that workers express their true wishes is to protect the secret ballot.” SAF has joined a coalition of agricultural organizations and associations called Agriculture for a Democratic Workplace to work to protect private ballots in union organizing elections. Visit the […]

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January 23, 2009

Overcoming The Language Barrier

Many greenhouse workers are of Hispanic origin and have little or no formal education in plant production. But how do you present simple yet essential knowledge of pest detection and monitoring to a staff that speaks mostly Spanish? Carlos Bográn, associate professor and Extension specialist at Texas A&M University, will lead a discussion on breaking down the language barrier at the 25th annual Pest Management Conference, and he recently shared a couple of thoughts about his topic with us. Is there an easy way to overcome the language barrier when dealing with tasks as complex as pest detection and monitoring? “I do not know about easy but showing the insect or disease symptom and demonstrating where and how to look for them will go a long way. It is always easier to find something if we already know what to look for and where it may be found.” Is there […]

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October 20, 2008

Labor Savers

While energy costs may be weighing heavily on our minds in chilly November, labor continues to be the greatest cost in running greenhouse operations. As part of our 25th anniversary celebration, we thought it would be good to present 25 ideas to help you save labor. Basic Concepts 1) Identify product movement and activities. “When it comes to looking at ways to save labor, it’s really happening in front of you every day,” says Mike Kanczak, a sales representative for Agrinomix, which provides automated solutions for growers. “Once you are trained to look for it, you can see it. If someone is touching something, there is a cost associated with that. Any type of movement or activity with people has a cost associated with it. Once you identify extraneous movement and activities, the next question is, ‘Is this something people have to do or something a machine can do?'” 2) […]

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August 6, 2008

Are Illegal Immigrants Self-Deporting?

The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) unveiled a report that suggests illegal immigrant population has declined by about 1.3 million since last summer, due in large part to tougher enforcement. The report indicates that a slower economy is driving immigrants to self-deport, but the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform (ACIR) countered the CIS report by issuing a follow-up statement against attrition through enforcement. According to the ACIR statement, “Attrition through enforcement means attrition of the American economy. It means job attrition. It means attrition of our nation’s ability to produce our own wholesome and abundant food. It means relying on the world to feed us. Attrition through enforcement is no solution.” The coalition is co-chaired by Craig Reggelbrugge, vice president of government relations and research at American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA). The bulk of the ACIR statement revolves around agriculture, but immigration attrition through enforcement obviously has similar effects […]

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June 25, 2008

Nearly 300 Laid Off At Sun Valley Farms

Sun Valley Farms, a cut flower grower in Arcata, Calif., was forced to lay off half of its workforce after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) found that 283 employees were not eligible to work in the United States due to incorrect employment numbers. Do greenhouse growers share similar fates? Lane DeVries, CEO of the Sun Valley Group, says ICE could find ineligible employees in any American business. “The current immigration policy is a threat to the sustainability of the California cut flower industry and to dozens of other sectors across the country,” DeVries says. “We must address this issue and find common ground for the economic health of our industry, our state and our country.” The development is devastating to Devries. “These were dedicated, hard-working people who have very much become part of the Sun Valley family over the years, and they will be greatly missed,” he says. According to […]

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June 17, 2008

Increases Affect Piece-Rate

There are a number of principles that influence the construction of effective piece-rate pay systems. One such notion is the importance of proportionately increasing piece-rate pay when minimum wage goes up (or when cost-of-living increases are reflected in hourly pay raises). Some producers think, “Hey, my piece-rate-paid people are already earning well above the minimum wage, so why should I raise my piece-rate?” The fastest, most capable worker in your crew, when paid by the hour, tends to work as fast as the slowest worker. But crew workers who are paid by the piece perform at a much higher rate and expend substantially more energy. When a piece rate is first established, this difference in effort is acknowledged. Workers earn significantly more than when paid by the hour. Over time, however, when hourly wages go up but piece-rate pay levels stay constant, this pay differential is slowly eliminated. Workers become increasingly […]

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May 21, 2008

Senate Committee Passes Guest Worker Measures

The Senate Appropriations Committee has voted to add the Emergency Agriculture Relief Act (EARA) to the 2008 emergency supplemental spending bill, providing a temporary solution to stabilize the experienced agricultural workforce and overhauling the H-2A temporary farm work program. EARA is offered as an amendment to the Iraq supplemental spending bill. If enacted, it would grant temporary, limited immigration status for experienced farm workers who would be required to continue to work in U.S. agriculture–including the nursery and greenhouse sector–for the next five years. This emergency measure would sunset after five years unless Congress acts to make the reforms permanent, either through comprehensive immigration reform or passage of a narrower bill like AgJOBS. The temporary legal status of workers would end along with the H-2A reforms, and revert to the current program now in place. “Hopefully, congressional leadership will now stop ignoring the voices of America’s small businesses and family […]

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February 20, 2008

Greenhouse Management Workshop

Managing people, plants and your greenhouse will be the focus of a two-day Greenhouse Management Workshop next week at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) in Wooster, Feb. 26-27. Hydroponics and organic production are on the program, too. The three tracks are management, culture and hydroponics and will be presented through lectures, hands-on activities and tours. Management sessions include: Managing Hispanic workforce Greenhouse management software Knowing your greenhouse environment to improve energy and production efficiency Culture sessions include: Water quality Pest management: Making sense out of pesticide labels; pests and beneficial insects; best sanitation management practices Major nutrient disorders Hydroponic sessions include: Food Safety Marketing Organic production For more information, contact Dr. Peter Ling, ling.23@osu.edu, or visit: http://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/ling/announce.html

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January 2, 2008

Immigration Enforcement Update

While growers got a reprieve from Social Security “no-match” letters in 2007, states have enacted their own illegal immigration enforcement laws that will take effect this year. According to the Washington Post, Arizona is where the nation’s toughest and potentially most far-reaching crackdown on undocumented workers and their employers will be. The Arizona law, which took effect Jan. 1, penalizes companies that knowingly hire illegal immigrants by suspending their business licenses for up to 10 days. On the second offense, the business license would be revoked. Read more about this editorial here. At the federal level last August, the Department of Homeland Security issued a new rule giving employers 90 days to terminate workers whose paperwork could not be reconciled once they received a no-match letter. Enforcement was blocked in October through an injunction granted by a federal district court judge in California. In the past, employers were not required […]

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August 29, 2007

VIEW: No-Match Letter Enforcement

University of California farm labor advisor Gregorio Billikopf shares his views on what enforcement of the Social Security No-Match Letter rule will mean for agriculture. The rule takes effect Sept. 14. SAFE HARBOR NOT SO SAFE Growers and producers have had to deal with an ever increasing amount of regulations. The “Social Security No-Match letter” has the potential of becoming one of the most devastating challenges American agriculture has faced in decades. If this regulation is truly enforced, and if provisions for immigrant labor are not streamlined or established, farm operators will be scrambling for labor. The words “labor shortage” will take on a whole new meaning. There is nothing comforting about the “safe harbor” concept. A safe harbor suggests that if farm employers follow certain steps, they will make sure undocumented workers are not employed, and thus they will be protecting themselves from potential fines. And so it is. […]

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August 15, 2007

No-Match Letter Rule Looms

Starting in the middle of September, growers will need to be extra vigilant in making sure they are in compliance with the Social Security No Match rule, which will be published in the Federal Register any day now and take effect 30 days later. Employers who receive notice from the Social Security Administration that an employee’s name and social security number do not match must resolve the discrepancy within 90 days or fire the employee. If the employee in question is not terminated, the employer will risk liability for violating the law by knowingly employing an unauthorized person (illegal worker). In addition to the new rule, the Bush Administration is releasing a package of immigration reforms to address border security, temporary worker programs and visa issues, according to the Society of American Florists. Civil fines are expected to increase 25 percent. In addition to investigating employers, the Bush Administration plans […]

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