Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Georgia farm leaders complain about U.S. Labor Department threatening their 2016 crops

Georgia’s Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black joined other farm leaders in Washington on April 22, 2016, to complain about U.S. Department of Labor delays in processing H-2A applications.

Agriculture is Georgia’s largest industry, and many farmers depend on temporary, nonimmigrant workers to plant and harvest crops and handle other agriculture-related activities, especially fruits and vegetables, such as blueberries, which are becoming an increasing percentage of Georgia’s agricultural output.

Commissioner Black stated that he had look at a survey of 56 contracts in Georgia and found that “about 1,200 workers arrived on time and nearly 3,000 workers have been late with an average of 8 days.”

Commissioner Black stated that blueberry growers in South Georgia are beginning their annual harvesting now with one producer having contracted for 514 people who were due 3 weeks ago.

Bill Brim of Lewis Taylor Farms in Tifton, Georgia, said that he has used the cumbersome and arduous H-2A program since 1997 to pick the farm’s 6,000 acres of produce.

Mr. Brim said he understood that USDA, the U.S. Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security “have their problems that they deal with on a daily basis as well, but they have a little control over their process, and we don’t.”

Right now, Mr. Brim says Georgia has blueberries, squash and cucumbers coming in and “we don’t have the labor to pick it.”

Zippy Duvall, President of the American Farm Bureau Federation and past president of the Georgia Farm Bureau, said that the Department of Labor is required to approve H-2A applications 30 days prior to when farmers need workers in the field, but that deadline is routinely missed.

“The backlog is about 30 days in the processing of H2A applications,” Duvall said. “Crops are not going to wait for the labor to get there. Crops will continue to mature and rot in the field if we do not get something done and done quickly.”

Section 218 of the Immigration and Nationality Act authorizes the lawful admission into the United States of temporary, nonimmigrant workers (H-2A workers) to perform agricultural labor or services of a temporary or seasonal nature. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) is responsible for stating, among other things, that there are not sufficient workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available, and that the employment of aliens will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of workers similarly employed in the U.S.

H-2A workers and domestic workers in corresponding employment must be paid special rates of pay that vary by locality, must be provided housing and transportation from that housing to the job site if their employment requires them to be away from their residence overnight, and must be guaranteed an offer of employment for a total number of hours equal to at least 75% of the work period specified in the contract.

The issue of a scarcity of bringing in farm labor from other countries comes at a time of national debate over immigration.

While H-2A workers are meant to be in the U.S. only temporarily and not meant to be permanent immigrants, the role of foreign workers either on a temporary or more permanent basis is becoming more controversial in this Presidential election year.

The Department of Labor retorts that they have processed 90 percent of H-2A applications in a timely manner.

DOL defines “timely” as the percentage of “complete H-2A applications resolved 30 days before the start date of need. A complete H-2A application is defined as one containing all the documentation (e.g., housing inspection report, workers’ compensation, recruitment report) necessary for the OFLC Certifying Officer to issue a final determination 30 days before the start date of need.”

The U.S. Department of Labor made their statistics available, which can be seen here.

An audio recording of the April 22 news conference is available here

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Georgia job market shows strength in first quarter of 2016 – 12-month ranking best among large states

Georgia’s labor market finished the first three months of 2016 in a stronger position than in 2015, and in line with other large states.

Since the beginning of the year, the state has added 29,000 net new nonfarm jobs, compared to an increase of 17,700 new jobs for the first quarter of 2015.

Georgia Nonfarm Employment, Jan. 2015 to March 2016, Seasonally Adjusted
Industries showing strong growth in the first quarter include retail (+6,800), construction (+6,200), and professional and business services (+5,000). Weaker industries included transportation and utilities and information, each of which saw a loss of 400 jobs over the three months. State government added 1,500 jobs in the first quarter, while local governments filled an additional 3,500 positions.

Net new jobs created in the
first 3 months of 2016 (January – March)
Total nonfarm employment
   Wholesale trade
   Retail trade
   Transportation and utilities
   Financial activities
   Professional and business services
   Education and health care
   Leisure and hospitality
   Federal government
   State government
   Local government

Compared to other large states (those with labor markets of 4 million or more nonfarm workers), Georgia’s 0.7 percent job growth in the first quarter ranked just below Michigan and North Carolina, each of which recorded growth rates of 0.8 percent according to preliminary data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Over the year, Georgia’s 3.1 percent job growth rate (resulting in 130,000 new jobs), ranked it first among the nation’s 11 largest states, followed by Florida at 2.9 percent and California at 2.6 percent.

Among all 50 states, Idaho marked the highest 12-month job growth rate at 3.6 percent, followed by Oregon and Utah (3.3 percent each). Tennessee and Washington both recorded job growth rates at 3.2 percent. Arizona tied Georgia’s rate a 3.1 percent.

Nationally, the U.S. has added 2.8 million jobs since March 2015 for a growth rate of 2.0 percent.

State Unemployment

Paradoxically, while employment grew, Georgia’s unemployment rate in March was 5.5 percent, the same rate as in December 2015. The unchanging rate reflected a net increase of 4,984 more people counted as unemployed.

To be counted as unemployed under BLS rules, you must not have a job and be actively seeking work. It is possible that the people newly added to the unemployment count may be coming back into the labor force, encouraged by the possibility of new jobs. For that reason, the unchanging rate is not seen as a negative, but could be a positive development for the economy as more people renew hope of getting a job and begin their active job search after a period of inactivity. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Workers Memorial Day – April 28, 2016

Workers' Memorial Day will be observed in Georgia and across the nation on April 28, 2016.

It is a day to honor those workers who have died on the job, to acknowledge the grievous suffering experienced by families and communities, and to recommit ourselves to the fight for safe and healthful workplaces for all workers. It is also the day OSHA was established in 1971. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their workers. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. (From the OSHA web site)

In Georgia, the unions of the AFL-CIO observe Workers' Memorial Day to remember those who have suffered and died on the job and to renew the fight for safe jobs. The AFL-CIO has declared that "this year, workers will come together to call for work in this country that is safe, healthy, and pays fair wages."

On Workers’ Memorial Day, April 28, workers in all International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts (IATSE) local unions have been asked to pause and offer a moment of silence at 1 pm EDT / 10 am PDT on behalf of those in the entertainment industry and all workers who have paid the ultimate price in order to support themselves and their families.

A nationwide listing of events for April 28, 2016 can be found on the AFL-CIO web site. A listing of events scheduled for Workers’ Memorial Week (April 23 – 30, 2016) can be found on the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health web site.

Materials and posters to aid in the observance of Workers' Memorial Day may be downloaded here or ordered online here. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Delta pilots explain their request for formal mediation

On March 31, the Air Line Pilots Association, Delta Master Executive Council (MEC), announced that the union and Delta Air Lines have filed for formal mediation with the National Mediation Board (NMB).
Although filing for formal mediation, the airline and union continue to meet. The Delta MEC Negotiating Committee and Delta Air Lines have “exchanged proposals on Sections 11 (Training), 12 (Hours of Service), 14 (Sick Leave), 16 (Crew Augmentation and International Operations), 22 (Filling of Vacancies), 23 (Scheduling), and 25 & 26 (Benefits)."

Even with the March 31’s joint filing for mediation with the National Mediation Board, multiple negotiating sessions are planned for each week throughout the month of April and beyond.

Delta ALPA and Delta Air Lines have agreed to a negotiating protocol specifying meeting dates through the end of April. 

MEC Chairman John Malone has called for a special meeting of the Master Executive Council on April 20-22 in Atlanta. This meeting, originally scheduled for May 2nd through May 4th, has been moved up by Capt. Malone as part of the MEC’s efforts to demonstrate their commitment to our aggressive negotiating schedule as set out in the negotiating protocol.

Below is the letter provided to pilots from the Delta MEC Chairman John Malone:

Dear Fellow Pilot,
Today is a milestone in the negotiating process. I am writing to update you on our filing for mediation and its impact on the negotiating process as well as several significant items including the standing up of the Family Awareness and Strike Preparedness Committees, and a positive development in the rising market for pilots. In joint cooperation with Delta Air Lines, your union filed for formal mediation with the National Mediation Board (NMB). This has been expected, as mediation is simply another step in the process under the Railway Labor Act (RLA) and a contractually-mandated step established in the Delta Pilot Working Agreement. Mediation does not mean an agreement is imminent, nor does it necessarily indicate a lengthy process; it only means that both parties did not reach a tentative agreement through direct negotiations by the March 31st deadline. As noted in my March 20 Chairman’s Letter, this month we executed a protocol with management that defines a bargaining timeline and agenda. Both Negotiating Committees are currently adhering to this protocol with sessions scheduled through April. If necessary in order to meet this schedule, both parties have committed to continuing the process even without the presence of the federal mediator, once appointed. Your MEC has dedicated the resources to ensure you are informed. MEC Alert 16-06 was recently published with an overview of the mediation process under the RLA. More information is forthcoming, including a special edition of the Widget—know that we are resolute in our commitment to keeping you informed as to the status of our negotiations. I ask that you follow the process with an educated view and provide your elected representatives with necessary input and direction. During the March quarterly meeting, your MEC approved a Strike Preparedness Committee Chairman and we expect to have the Family Awareness Committee up and running soon. These important committees complement each other and their synergy is a necessary component in the prescribed negotiating process. Please get involved and join their efforts— our effort—and spread the word among your fellow pilots, your spouses and families. As I wrote in my last letter, be prepared for any eventuality. The stage is now being set in our effort to advance this profession. Last week, American Airlines announced a profit sharing plan for its employees. Just fifteen months into their five year contract, AMR management added a five percent profit sharing plan, outside the normal negotiating process, and absent any quid pro quo from pilots. While still an inadequate valuation, it comes from a management once adamantly opposed to profit sharing—now acknowledging its importance as a shared reward. In closing, your MEC and Negotiating Committee submitted a full and comprehensive “marketbased” proposal last December. We are prepared to meet our goal of delivering an agreement, one that you will strongly ratify, by this summer. Our negotiators depend on the currency of your visible support at the bargaining table. Please continue to provide them that currency by displaying your ALPA-approved gear and attending pilot unity events as called on by your MEC. Stay engaged. Get your family engaged.

Fraternally, Captain John Malone Delta MEC Chairman