Sunday, August 20, 2006

The real champion please speak up

The 2-year extension of the H2B seasonal immigrant guest worker program expires Sept. 30. And everybody - I mean everybody - is strangely quiet about getting a new extension signed into law.

Ok, so I'll give it a shot. I'm saying 50-50 that a new 2- or 3-year extension of the so-called Save Our Small and Seasonal Business Act will be passed. If so, it will almost certainly ride on the back of an appropriations bill. . .

The Act widens the pool of seasonal immigrant workers for U.S. employers by allowing workers who have received H2B visas any of the previous three years to get them again, which is a good thing for the landscape industry, which employs lots of cheap labor.

This past spring it seemed that anybody with a connection to the Act that Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D - MD) brought before Congress was chirping like crazy, either seeking industry support for the measure or, more accurately, positioning themselves (or their organization) as the Act's true champions.

Three groups are working for passage of the Act, but how cooperatively is anybody's guess in light of the ongoing silence - the Washington D.C.-area-based Don Mooers/Hank Lavery faction, the Federation of Employers and Workers of America (a non-profit that has as its president one of the biggest and most assuredly for-profit H2B labor processors in the business) and the Professional Landcare Network.

Assuming the Act finally passes, who will send out the news release claiming to be the industry's champion in assuring a continuing stream of guest workers? — Ron Hall

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