ANLA fighting for the H-2B program

During the past few weeks, the American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA) has met with key government officials from the Departments of State and Labor to express concerns with how the federal government is administering the H-2B temporary and seasonal guest worker program. The landscape industry relies heavily on the H-2B program as a source of legal labor and has become one of the biggest users of the program.

Concerns over new security-driven procedures for processing guest workers prompted ANLA to request an emergency meeting with State Department personnel. A recent memo by the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey, Mexico, detailed a new security policy stating that 100 percent of H-2B program applicants would be subject to detailed one-on-one interviews prior to receiving a visa. The memo also described other administrative changes that could cause major delays in visa processing.

ANLA initiated a series of meetings to express concerns with the impact of these new procedures, and offered several suggestions on how to ensure security while clearing essential workers in a timely manner. Since then, a new Consular guidance memo clarifies that repeat-return workers will not need face-to-face interviews. This timely change will reduce the risk to H-2B employers of major delays in 2003.

At the DOL, ANLA conveyed continued green industry concerns that the DOL and its state offices were assigning inappropriate job classifications for many H-2B applications for landscape laborers. One of the problems ANLA brought to the DOL’s attention is that the limited job description of a “landscape laborer” set forth in guidance letter does not encompass the duties normally and routinely performed by landscape laborers. These inappropriate classifications are driving many applications into higher wage categories.

Secondly, the DOL’s job description of “Laborer, Landscape” was last updated in 1981, and does not reflect some of the typical and routine duties of this occupation as currently practiced. Because of these administrative hurdles, H-2B applications are being rejected or re-classified, forcing unrealistic wages. ANLA recently provided to the DOL a revised job description incorporating the typical and routine duties of this occupation as currently practiced.

“ANLA will continue to be vigilant to keep the H-2B program a viable safety net for employers struggling to find a stable and legal source of labor,” said Craig Regelbrugge, ANLA senior director of Government Relations.

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