As you may know, especially if you use the H-2B program, the Department of Labor (DOL) started using a new formula for calculating prevailing wages, which is effective September 30. This regulation will impact H-2B users who have labor certifications that are valid after September 30, 2011 and anyone hiring H-2B workers during 2012.

Effective September 30, these new wages will need to be paid to H-2B workers and any U.S. workers hired in connection with the H-2B recruitment process. Many employers have begun to receive new prevailing wage determinations that are about 40 to 50 percent higher than the current wages paid to their H-2B workers. PLANET recognizes the devastating impact that these higher wages will have on its members.

Therefore, PLANET filed a lawsuit September 21 asking a federal court in Florida to block the implementation of the wage rule. PLANET was joined on the lawsuit by PLANET members to include ArtisTree Landscape Maintenance & Design, National Hispanic Landscape Alliance, Ohio Landscape Association, Inc., U.S. Lawns of West St. Charles County, and others including Bayou Lawn & Landscape Services, Lake Cowart Seafood Corporation, and New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.

In declaration filed as part of the suit, PLANET CEO Sabeena Hickman outlined the irreparable harm that the rule would place on PLANET members who use the H-2B Program.

According to PLANET President Gerald J. Grossi, Landscape Industry Certified Technician, “The H-2B employee has been the backbone of our members’ and the American workforce for many years. If this regulation is not stopped, the H-2B program will cease to be an option, and without these workers, our industry cannot survive. PLANET has to take a leadership role as a plaintiff in this case because it is so important for our members and the industry in these harsh economic times to have the workforce necessary to fulfill their commitment to their customers.”

In December, the DOL is planning to finalize a second rule that will further cripple the program. The rule will likely require employers to hire any qualified U.S. worker up to three days before the H-2B worker is scheduled to begin, involve labor unions in the hiring process and require employers to pay transportation and subsistence costs for potential U.S. workers.

In addition to filing the lawsuit, PLANET continues to vigorously lobby Congress to block the DOL from implementing both the wage rule and the proposed rule. Thanks to the outreach of many of our members, 7 Senators and 40 Members of Congress sent a letter to DOL Secretary Solis asking the Department to rescind both the wage rule and a March proposed rule. Several other members sent DOL their own letters. Some state delegations are planning to send letters to President Obama. Senator Mikulski is also circulating a letter for Senators and Members of Congress to sign onto that will be sent to the President. Congress works best when it down to the last minute so they trying to help now.

PLANET is urging members to call Congress. You can reach your Senators and Members of Congress by calling the Capitol switch board at 202-225-3121.

For more information, contact PLANET’s Director of Government Affairs Tom Delaney.