Thursday, May 08, 2008

Wow, this industry has lots of wage-hour violations

DES MOINES, IA — The feds are finding lots of wage violations among landscape/lawn service companies, says Percella Maupins, the wage hour district director for the U.S. Labor Department. In Iowa, 56% of the companies that have been checked have been in violation of wage-hour regulations. These include failure to comply with federal minimum wage and overtime pay regulations, reported Matt Kelley of Iowa Radio on May 7. (Click on headline for full article.)

She reminds employers that they're required to pay time-and-a-half the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 hours per week. And, don't just hand employees cash for the extra work. That’s a big no no.

Another thing to be aware of — children under the age of 16 are forbidden from using motorized equipment, including lawn mowers and trimmers.

If you’re not certain what is and what isn’t allowed in terms of wage-hour regulations, visit the Web site and find out. — Ron Hall

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Tiny gas protest..hey, at least they made an effort

As protests go, this one is strictly small time. But it reflects what anybody who runs a route service business is feeling right now.

Earl Humphreys who runs a small lawn care company called Lawn Boyz in eastern Tennessee organized a gas protest on May 5. He and a handful of owners and workers at other lawn care companies held up signs along several highways in the Tri-Cities. The signs urged passing motorists to "hold leaders accountable."

Humphreys told a reporter for News Channel 11 he's spending more than $100 a day in fuel to run his company's mowers and other equipment. And that's just for 46 accounts, according to the news account. He says if fuel goes to $4 a gallon he's thinking about getting out of the business.

I applaud Humphreys and his colleagues for making their feelings known, but it's going to take something a whole lot bigger to stop these runaway fuel prices. Maybe something like the trucker's strike in 1974 or so on the Ohio Turnpike.

I was a newspaper photographer at the time and was sent scurrying on one fine summer morning to photograph the huge stoppage of traffic on the always-busy Ohio Turnpike. Truckers, disgusted with fuel shortages and high fuel prices caused by OPEC's oil embargo, had parked their trucks on the turnpike and blocked traffic for hours and hours. Ribbons of trucks and cars backed up for miles and miles and miles. Nobody could budge. By mid-afternoon a large swath of the turnpike had turned one of the world's largest parking lots. That got everybody's attention.

Strangely these days everybody, including truckers, seem to be meekly accepting the escalating fuel prices (Humphreys and his colleagues the exception). Unless we start using energy wiser and collectively decrease demand for gasoline and diesel, prices will keep going up, up, up. — Ron Hall

Click on the headline for the short article about Earl and his colleagues. It appeared on the