Oct 1, 2014
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Labor Matters

RSS By: Dairy Today: Labor Matters, Dairy Today

Experts cover today’s key dairy labor issues and offer fool-proof techniques to optimize employee performance, sat­isfaction and longevity.

Engage Your People to Improve Quality

Sep 25, 2014

How one California dairy transformed its workforce, its SCC levels and its bottom line.

By Jorge Estrada, PeopleFirst™, Zoetis

How do you normally respond to a milk quality challenge on your dairy? By retraining milkers? Changing procedures? Changing teat dip or mastitis treatment? These might be good temporary fixes, but they often aren’t a solution to the problem. Real, lasting change comes from an engaged workforce motivated to execute protocols consistently.

That’s exactly what happened when I worked with a dairy in California. The manager participated in the PeopleFirst™ Supervisory Certificate program. Before implementing a successful management approach on their farm, managers constantly struggled with the common issues of employee engagement and effectiveness.

Meanwhile, the dairy was stuck in mediocrity with somatic cell counts over 300,000. With smart investments into workplace culture and better delegation and management strategies, they were able to transform their team into one that was more engaged and worked well together. The results: reducing somatic cell counts, decreasing clinical mastitis by 25%, increasing milk production and quality, as well as saving a projected $236,220* in mastitis costs.1,2

They did it by:
• Raising their standards
• Changing the culture of the entire operation
• Modifying how tasks are completed at every level
• Completing a successful manager training program

For employees, the difference was noticeable. Not only did each employee improve, but so did teamwork, which made positive changes possible for the dairy. Through improved engagement and morale, delegation of job responsibilities, empowerment and accountability, milk quality improved for the dairy. This team’s effectiveness was developed by:
• Retraining workers
• Understanding protocols and the value of adherence
• Improving communication
• Encouraging respectful and calm interaction
• Implementing new standard operating procedures, most notably clinical mastitis treatment protocols

From my experiences working with dairies, I’ve learned substantial positive changes come from establishing sound procedures and having a team dedicated to ensuring procedures are carried out properly. These ingredients are essential for success.

When you have a problem on your dairy, the signs aren’t always obvious, and neither is the solution. Each challenge should be evaluated as an opportunity to assess both the people as well as the practices in place to find the true root of the problem. The key to success for any business is having engaged employees who understand how their work makes a difference.

Employees need a leader who builds trust with them, sets S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) goals with them, communicates often and gives feedback, keeps them accountable to their goals and recognizes contributions. Make management and manager training important on your dairy so you don’t end up stuck in mediocrity.

Jorge Estrada is an organizational development consultant and executive coach for PeopleFirst™ from Zoetis. He works with dairy producers to meet their human resources, training, development and leadership needs. PeopleFirst is the industry’s first comprehensive human capital and business management solutions program. These services were created in direct response to challenges customers expressed with managing today’s complex agricultural businesses. For more ways to help develop your employees, contact Jorge at Jorge.Estrada@GrowPeopleFirst.com or visit GrowPeopleFirst.com.

*Costs are based on a conservative cost estimate that every clinical mastitis case costs a dairy about $155 on average (a conservative estimate only accounting for loss in milk yield, treatment costs and mortality; other economic factors such as milk quality and culling rates are not included).2
1 Data on file, Study Report No. 13ORSERV03, Zoetis Inc.
2 Cha E, Bar D, Hertl JA, et al. The cost and management of different types of clinical mastitis in dairy cows estimated by dynamic programming. J Dairy Sci 2011;94:4476-4487.

All trademarks are the property of Zoetis Inc., its affiliates and/or its licensors. ©2014 Zoetis Inc. All rights reserved.



Who’s In Your Barn?

Sep 22, 2014

How you answer could tell a great deal about your management style, and probably how committed your workforce is to quality performance.

Chuck Schwartau blue

By Chuck Schwartau, University of Minnesota Extension

"Who’s in your barn?" sounds like it should a fairly easy question to answer, but how you answer could tell a great deal about your management style, and probably how committed your workforce is to quality performance. You are entrusting your employees to work with, operate and manage several hundred thousand to perhaps millions of dollars’ worth of your farm assets every day. Don’t you think it would be wise to know more about those people in whom you put so much faith?

My primary focus is getting to how well you really know the people working on your farm. It is more than knowing the names of the people in each position during a working shift. The larger question is how well do you know those people and what motivates them to be high performing employees.

Just like you as an employer, your workforce wants to provide a reasonably comfortable living for their families. That is a powerful motivator, but unless you know enough about the employees to understand their needs, you cannot do the things that may reward their dedication and quality work. You like to attend your children’s sports and school activities to support them and celebrate their achievements. How do you think one of your employees would feel if you offered to juggle their schedule some afternoon or evening so they could do the same for their children? Some would probably be very surprised and most would be very appreciative of the thoughtfulness. Most employees would also reward that consideration with an increased dedication to their jobs. This comes from knowing more about who is in your barn and what may motivate them to greater success.

With any workforce greater than one person, there is always the chance for conflict among employees. Hopefully, conflict on your farm is rare and small, but there is always the chance it will be there and could explode. Maybe the source of conflict is different working styles or the result of having different skills. Maybe employees don’t fully understand different jobs require different skills and not everyone is prepared for jobs they might desire.

Spending enough time with employees helps you identify those rough spots in the relationships among employees and gives you an opportunity to head them off before they become larger. The time might be working side by side from time to time, or visiting with individual employees in a comfortable setting where they can share their concerns. Some will call that "building trust," which it is, but it is also getting to know your employees and what motivates or demotivates them in the workplace.

It also helps if employees know you as the manager of the barn. Earlier, I mentioned dedication and quality performance. Knowing your employees well enough to show them you care is part of the equation. Employees also like to know clearly what is expected of them, and what they can expect from you in return. If they know what you want to achieve on the farm, and how they contribute to that end result you are much more likely to achieve your goals than if they have no idea where the business is headed. This completes the circle of building trust. Sharing basic goals with your employees shows you trust them to help achieve those goals.

Who is in your barn? Those in your barn include the employees to whom you trust your business operations and you as the leader who provides the direction and tools for those employees to be high performers. How well each of you knows the other and understands what each wants in life and from the business can influence the success or failure of the business.

Take time today to consider how you can get to know your employees better and how you can use that knowledge to increase their dedication to quality work. Show that you value them as individuals as well as employees. More likely than not, you will be rewarded.

Chuck Schwartau is Regional Director at the University of Minnesota. Contact him at cschwart@umn.edu.

Employers Need to Walk the Talk

Aug 29, 2014

Employers and supervisors who want their employees to act professionally should set the example by acting professionally themselves.

Robin DSC Small

By Robin Paggi, Worklogic HR

Did your parents ever tell you not to smoke while a cigarette dangled from their lips? Or, tell you not to curse when they had a potty mouth? If so, you know that the "Do as I say and not as I do" philosophy is not an effective parenting technique. A recent administrative hearing demonstrated that it’s not an effective technique for employers or supervisors either.

The administrative hearing occurred after Wellma "Tootie" Shafer was terminated from her job as a cashier at the Last Chance Market in Russell, Iowa. Shafer’s boss, Rick Braaksma, challenged her attempt to obtain unemployment benefits and both presented their cases before an administrative law judge.

According to numerous news sources, Braaksma argued that Shafer was terminated for misconduct because of an inappropriate discussion she had with a customer. "They were standing at the cash register talking about dirty, adult situations. I told (Shafer) we do not run our store like that. We cannot stand there and talk about adult situations in front of other customers," he was quoted as saying in the article, "Judge: Talking dirty not reason enough to lose job" on www.usatoday.com.

Shafer said no such conversation took place, but even if it did, profanity and off-color humor were part of the scene at the market. For example, the labels of some products sold at the store included profanity and depictions of female body parts (like "Wake The F Up" coffee and "The Hottest F---in’ Sauce" hot sauce).

In response to Braaksma’s argument that he didn’t tolerate dirty jokes in his store, the administrative judge asked, "So why don’t you remove these articles from your shelves?"

Braaksma: "Because we sell them."

Judge: "They are dirty jokes on your shelves, basically."

Braaksma: "No, they’re bottles of hot sauce. It’s all right to have dirty words on the premises because the farmers come in there and eat lunch all the time and that’s just, uh, kind of…"

Judge: "So dirty words are OK."

Braaksma: "Yeah, but there’s a time and a place for it."

So, Braaksma fired Shafter for talking dirty, but he allowed products with dirty words on them in his store. In other words, do as I say and not as I do.

The judge gave Shafer her unemployment benefits, noting that she had not been warned about her performance before being terminated. While at-will employers are not required to provide warnings, this case (among many others) demonstrates that it’s a good idea to do so.

It also demonstrates that employers and supervisors with the "Do as I say and not as I do" philosophy will have a very difficult time defending themselves for terminating employees who are simply emulating their behavior. Additionally, and probably more importantly, they will have a very difficult time getting employees to respect them and perform well.

One of the most basic principles of leadership is to lead by example. Employees are a lot like children in that they watch people in positions of authority and take their cue from them.

So, employers and supervisors who want their employees to act professionally should set the example by acting professionally themselves. Those who want their employees to work safely should always work safely. Those who want their employees to show up on time, cut costs, work efficiently, etc. should do all of those things themselves.

Employers and supervisors must walk the talk if they want their employees to do what they tell them to do. Because the "Do as I say and not as I do" philosophy doesn’t get it done.

Robin Paggi is the training coordinator at Worklogic HR, a human resources outsourcing company. In addition to conducting workshops on HR issues, she is a frequent presenter at conferences and a regular contributor to The Bakersfield Californian, The Kern Business Journal and Bakersfield Magazine. Contact her at rpaggi@worklogiclegal.com.

A New Pressure on Employers from Feds: I-9 Discrimination

Aug 25, 2014

U.S. Department of Justice is increasingly scrutinizing employer I-9 practices for discrimination against immigrant workers.

Anthony Raimondo 2010 06 photo

By Anthony P. Raimondo, attorney

Agricultural employers continue to struggle with compliance under a hopelessly broken immigration system that criminalizes employers for hiring the workers who are available and willing to work, and criminalizes immigrant employees who just want to work and try to make a better life for their families.

As Congress continues to fail to act on immigration, the pressure on both employers and employees in agriculture continues to grow. Now, a new pressure has been added.

The U.S. Department of Justice is increasingly scrutinizing employer I-9 practices for discrimination against immigrant workers. Conduct such as failing to provide the I-9 instructions with the form, specifying which documents are needed (i.e., "bring your drivers’ license and Social Security Card"), or requesting more documents than required (i.e. a Permanent Resident Alien Card and a Social Security Card) can lead to allegations of discrimination.

When completing an I-9, employees are entitled to choose to present any one document from List A, or any List B document and any List C document. An employer may not refuse to accept documents that reasonably appear genuine on their face and then request other documents from the employee. It is very common for employers to take a Permanent Resident Alien card (List A) and also take a Social Security Card (List C). If a List A document is provided, no further documents are necessary.

It appears that the federal government may be taking a greater interest in document abuse and immigration discrimination cases. In April 2014, a Dallas-area concrete company agreed to pay $115,000 in civil penalties, undergo training on the anti-discrimination provisions of immigration law, revise its internal policies, and be subject to government oversight for one year to resolve a federal government investigation. The investigation started because of a referral from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), likely because of information uncovered in an I-9 audit. The government concluded that the company subjected non-citizen new hires to unlawful demands for specific documentation, while U.S. citizens were permitted to present their choice of documentation. The employer also selectively utilized E-Verify to confirm the employment eligibility of individuals they knew or believed to be non-U.S. citizens or foreign born.

"Employers cannot create discriminatory hurdles for work-authorized non-U.S. citizens or naturalized citizens in the employment eligibility verification process, which includes the E-Verify program," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Civil Rights Division. "The Department of Justice is committed to protecting U.S. citizens and all work-authorized immigrants from document abuse."

In June, the Department of Justice negotiated a settlement with a Colorado janitorial company that resolved claims of immigration related discrimination. Specifically, the company required more documentation from non-citizens than was required of citizens. The settlement included payment of more than $50,000 in civil penalties and $25,000 back pay to compensate individuals who may have lost wages due to the discriminatory practices. The government also demanded the right to monitor the business’s employment eligibility verification process for one year.

Of greatest concern, the DOJ found in a separate investigation that a nursing home engaged in document abuse because required lawful permanent resident aliens to present a new green card after the old one expired, even though such reverification is unlawful.

Permanent residents have permanent work authorization in the United States that does not expire when the cards expire, much like a citizen’s work authorization does not lapse when a passport expires. While a permanent resident alien card must be valid at the time of hire, the form does not needed to be updated when the card expires. The nursing home also required permanent residents to produce proof of citizenship if they became naturalized citizens, even though this practice is prohibited by law. The case was settled for $14,500 in civil penalties, training on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA, establishment of a back pay fund, and two years of government oversight.

Employers must be sure to understand how the I-9 works, what documents are required (and what are not), and should make sure that employees processing new hires are properly trained. A great resource is the USCIS "I-9 Handbook for Employers" (Form M-274), available at www.uscis.gov Employers must be careful not to specify what documents are needed, and must be careful not to re-verify documents that do not require re-verification.

The goal of this article is to provide employers with current labor and employment law information. The contents should not be interpreted or construed as legal advice or opinion. For individual responses to questions or concerns regarding any given situation, the reader should consult with Anthony Raimondo at Raimondo & Associates in Fresno, at (559) 432-3000.

What Could Obama Do?

Aug 21, 2014

With Congress stalemated on immigration legislation and little reason to expect a good legislative window before 2017, all eyes are on the President.

Regelbrugge photo 3 13   Copy

By Craig J. Regelbrugge, National Co-chairman, Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform

With Congress stalemated on immigration legislation and little reason to expect a good legislative window before 2017, all eyes are on the President. He and his spokespeople have said that he intends to do what he can, "within the law," to improve the situation. Various industries are engaging in various ways, and many legal experts believe he could do quite a few things, each with its own attendant risks and benefits.

Agricultural employers of all types and political stripes have a lot of skin in this game. After all, a majority of the labor force is believed to have papers that wouldn’t stand up to a forensic investigation. But they’re the only ones applying for the work. The existing visa program, H-2A, is an unresponsive and bureaucratic mess. Some industries, like dairy, are virtually excluded from using it anyway, because neither the work nor the workers fit the definitions of temporary or seasonal. Without a doubt, we need legislation to fix the myriad shortcomings of the current system. But perhaps more limited measures could help. What’s possible?

First, without any fanfare, the Administration could shift enforcement priorities to stuff that really matters. At a time when all eyes should be on smugglers and cartels, we’ve seen considerable resources wasted on harassing farmers and their workforce, which was hired after showing papers that appear genuine, the legal standard. Homeland Security officials should only be auditing farms when there’s evidence of criminal wrongdoing, not randomly or on the basis of shadowy, anonymous tips from a disgruntled competitor, worker or neighbor.

Secondly, the Administration could provide some relief from deportation for some of the workforce. The default position is said to be to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy to unauthorized immigrants who have been here for a long time (maybe 10 years or more) or have U.S. citizen children. Such expansions might affect a considerable number of farm workers. The carrot would be legal authorization to work, but there would be no particular incentive to remain in agriculture. How many would take the risk of coming forward and essentially putting themselves on a deportation list? Would they stay on the farm or leave?

Farm worker advocates would like to see such policies extended to all experienced farm workers. After all, we’ve got a labor shortage now, and anything that stabilizes the workforce might help. Some legal analysts believe a better approach than deferred action to address this issue would be the use of "parole authority," an option that essentially allows for the waiving of normal immigration rules for specific individuals when it is deemed to be strongly in the public interest.

The other obvious area for possible action would be to improve the existing visa programs, in agriculture’s case, H-2A. Technically, it’s possible. Most of the cumbersome and unrealistic rules and restrictions of the current program are regulatory in nature, not in statutes passed by Congress. So the Administration could engage in a systematic rulemaking effort to achieve many of the goals of the bipartisan agricultural stakeholder agreement that became part of S.744, the comprehensive immigration bill that passed the U.S. Senate in June, 2013.

But despite strong support from many in Congress, including more than a few Senate Democrats, no one is expecting serious effort in this area. After all, Obama will likely listen to labor unions and worker advocates, and they have little interest in improving the visa program to admit more workers in the future.

Action of some sort is expected as early as September. It remains to be seen what the President will do, and whether it will be done in one step or several. But with House Republicans pretty much immobilized, it might be the only action we see for a while. Let’s hope it does more good than harm!

Based in Washington, D.C., Craig Regelbrugge is co-chairman of the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform, and vice president for government relations with the American Nursery and Landscape Association. Contact him at cregelbrugge@anla.org or at 202-434-8685.

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