September 14, 2009

Lessening Labor Pains At Four Star Greenhouse

Jeff Back wants his production line supervisors walking the lines, encouraging employees and making sure cuttings are stuck at the correct depths. Back when Four Star Greenhouse used hand scanners to track inventory, some supervisors were preoccupied scanning trays as they were loaded on carts and spending less time working directly with employees. But ever since Four Star invested in stationary bar code scanners that track inventory and employee efficiency, supervisors are freed up to ensure quality cuttings are produced and employees are working at a more efficient pace. “There are a couple different reasons why we went with stationary scanners,” says Back, who serves Four Star as general manager. “First, we wanted to free up some labor. We had been using one of our supervisors to do the hand scanning as the product came off the belt. As carts were loaded, supervisors would scan trays on the carts to capture […]

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September 1, 2009

Investing In People

George and Louise Lucas share their success with long-term, dedicated employees. For instance, Lori Fletcher, who manages all the orders and systems that go with them, has been with the company 21 years. Head grower Joe Moore (pictured) has been there for nearly 30 years, starting at age 11. “We try to make Lucas Greenhouses a great place to work, like a family environment, and treat people fairly,” George says. “We want this to be a career. I try to emphasize to all the employees that as my business makes money, they will also make money, get a good bonus and pay raise. I make sure I share the business with everybody and am not putting all the money in my pocket. I know my business does not exist without them. You can have all the good ideas you want, but you have to put them into practice and execute, […]

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May 19, 2009

AgJOBS Bill Making Comeback

Sen. Dianne Feinstein gave a floor speech last week announcing the reintroduction of the Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits and Security Act (AgJOBS) of 2009. Feinstein painted a picture of the realities confronting greenhouse workers and workers in similar industries. “Many green industry employers in the growing community are struggling to use the current H-2A program,” says Craig Regelbrugge, co-chair of the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform and vice president for government relations for the American Nursery & Landscape Association. “Many more are fearful about the immigration status of key, experienced and trusted employees.” Labor shortages already resulted in decisions by farm owners and managers to scale back or cease production, or even move operations offshore. Localized and costly labor shortages have also been reported in recent years, and could worsen unless Congress addresses the situation. AgJOBS, when enacted, will overhaul the decades-old H-2A program to make it more affordable and efficient […]

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April 27, 2009

Labor Unions For Legalization Of Illegals

The AFL-CIO and Change to Win, an umbrella group for seven affiliated unions, released a proposal titled “Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform” last week, in which they support the legalization of 12 million undocumented immigrants already in the United States. The Society of American Florists (SAF) shed light on the proposal in its Washington Week In Review eNewsletter, reiterating that domestic workers simply do not want to work in seasonal, migratory positions harvesting flowers or vegetables. SAF is upbeat that the union groups agree. AgJOBS legislation, which addresses the need to overhaul H-2A program long term, also would remain entact in the proposal–another positive. The downside is that the proposal contains a provision framework calling for an independent commission to assess and manage future work flows, based on labor market shortages that are determined on the basis of actual need. To SAF, that provision indicates hostility to temporary or guest-worker […]

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February 26, 2009

Online Videos From Syngenta Give Growers Employee Training Insight

Syngenta Professional Products has added five new greenhouse sprayer videos on its GreenCast website. They can be found under the “Resource” section. Syngenta developed these videos to help greenhouse growers better train their staff on the effective and accurate use of control products. The five new videos, which feature Syngenta ornamental technical manager Nancy Rechcigl, are:–Improve product efficacy–see how practices like measuring droplet size, increasing spray volume and replacing nozzles can make a difference in product delivery and results–Why apply Plant Growth Regulators (PGRs) early?–learn how early application methods can improve the bottom line–Curb disease before it starts–find out how changing spray techniques and equipment can help reduce the spread of fungal diseases–Perfect your IPM program–learn helpful tips for insect management–Prepare with a PGR–see how using plant growth regulators can be a cost-effective strategy, especially as a drench late in the production cycle “We recognize growers’ need for ongoing training […]

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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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