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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July 11, 2007

Immigration Compliance Update

Although Congress may have failed to implement immigration reform, the Society of American Florists expects increased worksite law enforcement and for employers who fail to adhere to employment verfication procedures to face stiffer civil and criminal penalties. Make sure your are current on compliance by visiting: http://www.magnetmail.net/actions/email_web_version.cfm?recipient_id=23447245&message_id=331670&user_id=SAFlorists

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July 5, 2007

Immigration Reform Post Mortem

After more than a year of contentious debate, the comprehensive immigration reform bill championed by many in the Senate along with the Bush administration is officially dead. Last Thursday, the Senate failed to invoke cloture, or end debate, by a vote of 46-53. What will status quo or doing nothing mean for growers? American Nursery & Landscape Association’s Craig Regelbrugge says tighter borders, labor shortages and more state and local laws that target employers. We may also see enforcement-only legislation resurface and a mandatory electronic verification system that places the burden of making sure workers are legal on employers. ANLA will explore future support for guestworker programs and AgJOBS. For more insight, visit: http://www.anla.org

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May 23, 2007

Reach Senators On Immigration Reform

Now is the time for growers’ voices to be heard on immigration reform. The U.S. Senate is taking up debate and action with the hopes of fixing a broken system. Our industry’s advocates in Washington, D.C., are urging growers and allied industry members to contact their senators by phone as soon as possible. For details, go to: http://www.greenhousegrower.com/immigration/take_action.html

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May 16, 2007

Immigration Reform Heats Up

Today is lobby day on Capitol Hill for the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform and the national Council of Agricultural Employers. Both American Nursery & Landscape Association and the Society of American Florists (SAF) are taking a leading role in this effort and mobilizing members to participate. SAF lobbyists Jeanne Ramsay and Lin Schmale were just featured in Monday’s edition of The Politico on this issue. For the story, visit: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0507/3912.html

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