Many em­ploy­ers that rely on ex­tra work­ers for their busy summer months say the move comes too late to make a dif­fer­ence. But Chavez, who was of­fer­ing $15.30 an hour for six paver lay­ers to work June through Novem­ber, says he plans to ap­ply for the new bat

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - BUSINESS & FARM -

low-skill jobs from the do­mes­tic la­bor pool.

“They don’t re­quire a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence, the pay rates seem de­cent, and cer­tainly we know that there are a lot of teenagers and peo­ple in com­mu­ni­ties with­out a col­lege de­gree who are not work­ing,” said Jes­sica Vaughan, di­rec­tor of pol­icy stud­ies at the Cen­ter for Im­mi­gra­tion Stud­ies, which ad­vo­cates for re­duc­ing im­mi­gra­tion. “It would be nice if there were re­cruiters go­ing after peo­ple like that.”

Em­ploy­ers counter that they do re­cruit lo­cally but that there are not enough in­ter­ested can­di­dates to meet de­mand.

Chavez, whose fam­ily has owned Yu­ritzy RC Land­scap­ing for 25 years, said peo­ple re­spond to ads the com­pany posts in gar­den centers and publi­ca­tions. But once they dis­cover the job en­tails hours of stoop­ing in the hot sun, they leave to find less gru­el­ing al­ter­na­tives.

“They only last a few weeks, and be­cause the work is hard, they don’t come back,” Chavez said. Work­ers from Mex­ico, where most H-2B land­scap­ing la­bor­ers come from, are of­ten used to the con­di­tions be­cause they work on farms at home, he said.

Em­ploy­ers in­creas­ingly have been turn­ing to H-2B visas to fill jobs, with com­pa­nies in Texas, Florida and Colorado among the most avid users. Last year the La­bor Depart­ment re­ceived 143,311 visa re­quests, a 13.6 per­cent jump from the prior year.

The visas are des­ig­nated for sea­sonal or one-time jobs or to sup­ple­ment ex­ist­ing staff to meet peak de­mand, and must of­fer to pay the pre­vail­ing wage for the spe­cific job and lo­ca­tion. Em­ploy­ers must attest that there aren’t enough U.S. work­ers will­ing or able to take the jobs, and post job ads on the state’s online job board and in news­pa­pers seek­ing Amer­i­can can­di­dates. After re­ceiv­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion from the La­bor Depart­ment, they file pe­ti­tions with U.S. Cit­i­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices, which grants the visas un­til the cap is reached.

In Illi­nois, where H-2B us­age is mod­er­ate com­pared with other states, em­ploy­ers have re­quested 2,010 H-2B visas so far in the cur­rent fis­cal year, which started last Oc­to­ber, and the La­bor Depart­ment has cer­ti­fied 1,878 of them. The great­est num­ber went to two Chicago-re­gion busi­nesses: Acres Main­te­nance, a land­scap­ing com­pany with 220 visas cer­ti­fied at an hourly pay rate of $9.50 an hour, and Land­scape Con­cepts Man­age­ment, which got 119 at an hourly pay rate of $14.34. Nei­ther com­pany re­sponded to calls.

Frank Jimenez, owner of Jimenez & Sons Land­scap­ing in sub­ur­ban Chicago, re­ceived 25 la­bor­ers from Mex­ico through the H-2B visa pro­gram this sea­son, at a wage rate of $14.34 an hour, to sup­ple­ment his staff of seven Amer­i­can work­ers. He pays for their trans­port to and from Mex­ico and pro­vides hous­ing, though he charges rent. Six­teen of them are living in a home he owns with five bed­rooms and a base­ment.

Jimenez said that when he has hired lo­cals, they find year-round jobs after the sea­son ends and don’t re­turn, or ask to work only two or three days a week, some­times be­cause they struggle to com­mute to the suburbs. Last year, Jimenez said, pro­cess­ing prob­lems with the H-2B pro­gram held up his visas and he couldn’t find re­li­able work­ers to fill in.

“If we don’t have this type of work­ers, we prob­a­bly wouldn’t have busi­ness,” Jimenez said.

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