Thursday, October 22, 2009

These H2B 'facts' are way out of line

Can this be true — that 98% of legal, seasonal H2B guest workers are paid wages lower than the prevailing wage reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics?

Or that 64% of the cases the DOL-certified wage fell below 75% of the mean hourly wage?

A Washington D.C. “think tank” known as the Economic Policy Institute reported in 2008 that it is true. The EPI said it gathered these findings from 15 states, which it listed at the end of a short article.

In our opinion, the EPI has to offer a lot more explanation of how it came up with these numbers before they’re taken as credible. Unfortunately, once they’re reported they're taken as fact and are freely shared.

For example, the 98% statistic turned up in an Oct. 21 article in the Los Angeles Times. The statistic jumped out at us because our personal experiences in visiting with landscape companies and documenting their H2B workers have been the opposite — that employers desirous of keeping these valuable workers pay them the prevailing wage in their particular regions. And as these workers gain skills and experience more than the prevailing wage.

With the U.S. economy at near full employment from the late 1990s until just a few years ago, just about every landscape company owner with H2B workers told us the same thing— they couldn’t find able-bodied U.S. workers willing to show up every day to do routine landscape work, such as mowing, trimming and installing hardscapes . . . even at prevailing wages, which are admittedly lower than union scale but in line with other service industries.

Our experiences visiting and meeting with landscape company owners and, indeed, many of their seasonal guest workers puts to the lie the claim — an exaggeration that makes it absurd on the surface— that 98% of legal, seasonal H2B guest workers are paid wages lower than the prevailing wage.

Statistics like this are often picked up and passed on as fact. Coupled with today’s bleak employment picture, which has savaged job prospects for U.S. workers and guest workers alike, it's unlikely that the present administration or Congress will look at guest worker programs favorably when they get around (if they ever do) to an immigration overhaul. — Ron Hall

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