January 6, 2010

ANLA Breaks Down Health Care Reform

The following analysis was provided by the American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA). The complete analysis is available to members at ANLA.org. On Christmas Eve morning, the United States Senate voted to approve its version of a massive health care overhaul. The legislative process is far from over, and enactment into law is not assured. The next step will be for a conference committee to try to produce a final package that may borrow from both the earlier House-passed version, and the Senate bill. The ultimate question is whether moderates and liberals will step over lines already drawn in the sand, to approve a final bill that falls short of their respective goals. Early signs are that the House may largely defer to the Senate’s version, but many do not expect final passage until at least February. Though the process isn’t over, employers everywhere are scrambling to understand what the […]

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November 11, 2009

Clocking In & Out From Your BlackBerry

Exaktime introduces its PocketClock/GPS for Blackberry, software that transforms a BlackBerry smartphone into a portable GPS time clock and management tool for supervisors. PocketClock/GPS lets mobile employees or crews clock in and out at dozens of locations each week. “Having mobile employees use handwritten timecards costs companies a fortune,” says Exaktime CEO Tony Pappas. “With this new BlackBerry version of PocketClock/GPS, our customers can give their mobile teams and their managers a great automated timekeeping tool using the smartphone they already own.” Using PocketClock/GPS, workers easily clock in or out and record what type of work they are doing. Each time punch includes a GPS fix so the office knows the location of every clock in/out and can quickly view the travel times between locations. Managers can also set a virtual perimeter around each jobsite to highlight employees clocking in and out when they are not actually at the worksite. […]

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October 19, 2009

Immigration Laws In Need Of Overhaul

Let’s not quibble over semantics. Our nation’s immigration laws are broken. They remind me of a rusty truck with broken windows, propped up on crumbling cinder blocks in an overgrown back yard. No engine, no tires and out of gas. By now, I believe everyone agrees our immigration laws are outdated and don’t work. If they did, there would be legal avenues for those who want to come here to work in jobs Americans are unavailable or unwilling to do–at any price. It literally takes years to get a valid visa to work legally in the United States. By keeping America’s front door closed to economic migrants, our lawmakers have left them no choice but to slip through our backdoor. Frankly, our broken immigration system is not good for anyone. Labor Pains It’s one of the worst-kept secrets: labor-intensive industries like ours have a disproportionate share of workers without proper […]

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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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