As spring and summer approach, golf course superintendents are looking to fill positions on their team as soon as possible to assist during the busy season. Finding the right individuals is a challenge, though.
In fact, in Superintendent magazine’s survey of about 400 golf course superintendents, when asked “What is the biggest challenge you have managing your golf course?,” 31 percent of respondents selected “finding reliable help.”
Many superintendents look to hiring non-immigrant foreign nationals to fill seasonal jobs. But E-Verify, which gives businesses the ability to determine the legal status of potential employees, has impacted the hiring of temporary nonimmigrant workers. Nineteen states participate in the E-Verify system.
The September 2014 issue of Superintendent magazine included interviews with several superintendents who blamed a lack of available workers on the E-Verify system.
Superintendent Kevin Smith at Bryan Park Golf Enrichment Center in Greensboro, N.C. says, “It’s hard to find guys who have papers that want to work for $8 or $9 an hour. A lot of guys who worked for me moved back to Mexico.”
Recently, the task has become more challenging since the H-2B Program reached its cap for the first half of the year. As of Jan. 26, 33,000 foreign nationals received approval to come to the United States as non-agricultural temporary workers for work beginning prior to April 1.
The H-2B Program was created to allow U.S. employers who bring foreign nationals to the U.S. for nonagricultural work. The petitioner must establish that there aren’t enough U.S. workers available to do the temporary work and that the employment of H-2B workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.
It’s not easy to hire a foreign national as a worker. After finding and tentatively offering a job to a worker who fits your needs, a superintendent must go through the petition process for a nonimmigrant worker. The form prospective employers must fill out is 36 pages long. The $325 filing fee doesn’t make the process any less painful.
A bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide for requirements for employers of H-2B nonimmigrants has been introduced (H.R. 4238). It would reinstate the H-2B returning worker exemption, allowing an alien who has already been counted toward the numerical limit to not be counted and be considered a returning worker. They would be counted again if they departed the United States for a period greater than a year.
Currently, the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) is encouraging landscape professionals to ask senators and congressmen to pass this legislation. PLANET emphasizes the fact that landscape businesses want to hire legal workers to fill open positions.
For superintendents who want to hire Hispanic workers but can’t because of the cap, the bill is a mixed bag.
It doesn’t just include provisions to exempt returning workers from H-2B numerical counts. If passed, the legislation will require the superintendents to provide evidence they made efforts to recruit U.S. workers, pay for transportation of returning workers to the golf course, and pay wages the greater of the actual wage to employees in similar positions or the prevailing wage level for the position in the geographic area. It also provides an incentive to hire legal workers by providing a replacement visa to employers who terminate an absconding H-2B nonimmigrant employee.
Superintendents should make sure they hire quality applicants who make the huge application and $325 filing fee worthwhile. This will be even more relevant if H.R. 4238 is made a law, since they will be expected to provide more documentation and pay transportation costs and be expected to pay at a comparable rate to other employees.
One thing a superintendent should do is to make sure they figure out spring and summer help — and fast. The faster superintendents submit their petitions, the less likely the application will be rejected because of the cap. Spots are filling up quickly and, as of Feb. 6, more than 8,000 beneficiaries are approved or are pending approval toward the 33,000 limit. The start date for workers during the second half of the year is anytime after April 1. That’s about six weeks away, so if you begin your search for quality employees now, you can be prepared for a long season with quality employees.
No matter what, finding the right people to fill open positions isn’t going to get any easier and superintendents can’t expect “a bundle of guys walking in and looking for a job,” like Kevin Smith notes they used to do.
If you’re interested in learning more about the issue, these resources can provide you with a solid background.