Strength in numbers
|By Kristin Smith-Ely|
If you had a chance to read the June issue’s cover story on the labor crisis facing the green industry, you are already aware how restrictions and delays with H-2B visas have been particularly trying on landscaping businesses this busy season. There is plenty of work out there, but where are all the workers?
For years, the H-2B guest worker program has helped contractors find the labor they need to keep their businesses afloat. But what happens when they don’t get the workers they need? Do companies have to raise their prices to make up the difference because they can’t service as many customers? Does the quality of the job suffer if their existing workers have to work longer shifts? We may soon find out the answer to those unwanted questions.
Some might argue, if these companies just paid more, then more people would want to work for them. Blaming the pay is misleading, however, because these positions often do pay better than other seasonal jobs. The real challenge is convincing someone who is already gainfully employed full-time, year-round to take a seasonal job.
The labor pool is so small, some companies are already having to lower the bar and eliminate drug screening and other prerequisites just to ensure they have enough labor. Should they be forced to further compromise?
I think it is abundantly clear that something has to change. A strong economy and housing market pushes up demand for lawn care services and landscaping, which is good for our industry. But without enough people to do the work, the issue is way more serious than an unmanicured lawn.
I am encouraged that the National Association of Landscape Professionals is taking action, forming an H-2B advisory committee and launching programs to encourage people to choose landscaping careers.
If your business is suffering from a shortage of labor, don’t sit back and hope for the best, get out there and tell your story and band together with your industry colleagues. Join an association or write your representatives and let them know how the H-2B restrictions or other government policies are negatively affecting your business. It can make a difference. Uniting as one industry or a coalition of industries, which this new NALP committee is doing, can have an even greater impact.