Jesus "Chuy" Medrano, partner in CoCal Landscape Services and president of the National Hispanic Landscape Alliance, offered this op-ed piece in the Nov. 18 edition of the Denver Post.

Guest Commentary: Increasing wages of foreign workers would hurt small businesses
By Jesus Medrano

As President Obama rolls out his jobs plan and prods Congress to act on it, a lot of attention has been given to how this program will improve the lives of families. However, attention should also be given to how other efforts by the Obama Administration are proving harmful to businesses and workers and, in effect, undermining the spirit behind the president’s very own initiative to stimulate the economy.

One grave concern is a policy being advanced by the Department of Labor (DOL) that will sharply increase wages paid to seasonal foreign workers employed via the H2-B program and to American workers who perform similar duties. These targeted wage hikes of up to 75 percent would cripple reputable companies that employ legal means to source labor, making them unprofitable and putting at risk thousands of small business jobs across the country; jobs which have been established with great effort and personal sacrifice.

Colorado’s landscape services industry is one sector that would bear the brunt of the sharp and unsustainable wage hikes payable by employers using the only legal means available to source the laborers they need to grow and to meet the seasonal needs of their customers.

This targeted government action would result in some firms cutting back their operations and others closing their doors altogether. Not only will entry level seasonal jobs be eliminated, but those in year-round managerial, administrative and support staff positions would also say "adios" to their employment. These effects will be felt across a number of H-2B dependent Colorado companies in the hospitality, ski resort and restaurant industries as well.

Reliable, diligent, and conscientious workers are key to the success of any company. The more successful firms are those that attract and retain the best talent. In my landscape company, I have 80 H-2B employees who have been returning for as many as 10 years, because year after year our efforts to recruit domestic workers to perform physically demanding seasonal work fail to yield sufficient workers to meet the needs of our growing customer base. Our ability to supplement the domestic workforce with foreign workers hired through legal means enables us to expand and create the jobs that more Americans aspire to have.

Many service industries need temporary workers to meet seasonal demands and sustain a level of economic activity that make it possible to afford higher paying year-round positions attractive to working Americans. This is why the misguided wage rules and other proposed program changes that would render the H2-B program useless to American employers must be challenged.

Since much of Colorado’s economy relies on labor intensive industries with seasonal cycles, our ability to supplement our workforce needs through legal means is important and we need to take a stand against regulations that stand to selectively hurt the operations of reputable employers.

We need the Department of Labor to immediately stop their tinkering and rethink the harmful policies they have proposed in light of the concerns that we and others have made known to them.

Too much is at stake in this fragile economy for the Department of Labor to persist in implementing policies that will have dire consequences; however unintended they may be.
We call on DOL officials to exercise restraint and better judgment rather than proceeding with the implementation of policies that will needlessly challenge many industries, kill many jobs, and undermine the President’s goal of adding jobs in these tough economic times.
Jesus "Chuy" Medrano is owner of CoCal Landscape Services and president of the National Hispanic Landscape Alliance.