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March 2013 Archive for 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.

The Pressure Builds for Progress on Immigration Reform

Mar 25, 2013

Both the House and Senate are close to unveiling a comprehensive immigration reform legislative proposal -- but there are two major stumbling blocks to a bipartisan ag agreement.

Regelbrugge photo 3 13   CopyBy Craig Regelbrugge, National Co-chairman, Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform

No one ever said that it would be easy, right? Over the past several weeks, progress in Congress toward bipartisan immigration reform legislation has been tough and slow. But with April almost upon us, the pressure is high as an elephant’s eye to begin formal debate over a bill or bills.

Which chamber will go first? That is an open question. While conventional wisdom has long suggested the Senate will move faster, the bipartisan House working group seems closer to agreement on a bill. Members of that group include Republicans Mario Diaz-Balart (Florida), John Carter and Sam Johnson (Texas), and Raul Labrador (Idaho), as well as Democrats Zoe Lofgren and Xavier Becerra (Caliornia), Luis Gutierrez (Illinois), and John Yarmuth (Kentucky).

Complicating matters, though, is the question of whether House legislation will move by "regular order" in the Judiciary Committee or by some other process.

The Senate "gang of eight" includes Democrats Charles Schumer (New York), Richard Durbin (Illinois), Robert Menendez (New Jersey), and Michael Bennet, as well as Republicans John McCain and Jeff Flake (Arizona), Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), and Marco Rubio (Florida). A separate working group on agriculture is led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (California) and also includes Senators Rubio, Bennet, and Orrin Hatch (Utah).

As the two-week Congressional spring recess arrived, neither chamber had unveiled a comprehensive immigration reform legislative proposal. Both say they are close, and bills in both chambers are expected to include provisions addressing border security, employment eligibility verification, future legal immigration, and the status of the estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S.

The issue of future legal worker programs – especially for "lesser-skilled" occupations that do not require much formal education – has become a major sticking point. Business wants them. Unions hate them. Pro-reform Republicans and some Democrats see expanded future legal channels as essential to avoiding the mistakes of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, and curbing future illegal immigration. I have long believed that if he wants the legacy of truly modernizing America’s immigration system, President Obama will have to stand up to organized labor on this point. It remains to be seen whether he will.

In short, the business/labor negotiations have been rough. The same is true in the agriculture-specific negotiations, involving many of us active in the Agriculture Workforce Coalition and the United Farm Workers union. While the process is very fluid, the two major stumbling blocks to a bipartisan ag agreement have been how to establish wages and a cap on visas for future worker programs.

Both issues, if handled poorly, could prevent a future program from working. If a floor wage for a new program is set too high, producers won’t be able to use it, as they would have to pay entry-level workers a higher wage than most workers now receive. If a cap is too low or inflexible, employer applications for needed workers could be denied. The result could be more illegal immigration, more off-shoring of American agricultural production, or both.

In the absence of a producer/worker advocate agreement, the Senate may resort to a "process" approach that leaves these tough decisions to future resolution, subject to criteria. We would much prefer certainty and transparency.

While progress has been fitful, there is some good news: After years on the field, defining the diverse needs in agriculture and making our case, Congress knows agriculture needs special consideration in an immigration bill. That includes the dairy industry. No one seriously argues against the need for visas that accommodate year-round dairy work. With the stakes so high for all, I remain optimistic that we will see progress in Congress on this issue.

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.

4 Interviewing Guidelines to Select the Right Job Applicant

Mar 01, 2013

How are your skills in interviewing potential employees?

Higginbotham 5 12   CopyBy Gerald E. Higginbotham, Ph. D, PAS
Ruminant Business Manager-California, Micronutrients

The cost of a bad hire is steep, and it’s just not the wasted salary that’s expensive. Many experts estimate that the cost of a bad hire exceeds the annual salary of a position.

Some basic interviewing guidelines can help in the selection of the right job applicant.

1. Have an interview team.

To prevent any bias from just one person doing the interviewing, invite others from your management team to participate. These individuals could be your nutritionist, veterinarian or some other person familiar with your dairy operation. Be sure to include a person who will have direct supervision over the individual to be hired. If possible, have each member of your team conduct a one-to-one interview with the applicant. This allows an independent assessment of each applicant. It is important that everyone on the team is on the same page with what the objective is and what the job entails. Otherwise, a job applicant will come in to interview with one person and be asked completely different questions by the second person because the second person thinks the job is about something else completely.

2. Ask the right questions.

By meeting with your team beforehand, you can form pointed questions for the applicants that make the most of your time with the job candidate. Avoid questions that can be answered yes or no. Ask situational or hypothetical questions, such as, "What are your strengths that can help our dairy operation?" This allows the applicant to convey his thoughts on what his strengths are and what he/she brings to your dairy operation. Also by asking "what if" questions allow the applicant to show their problem-solving capabilities. An example question could be, "What procedures would you use if you find a down cow?"

3. Conduct a practical test.

In practical tests, applicants are required to complete a job sample or a simulated task. Observing how an applicant handles farm animals, milks cows or starts a tractor provides useful information on how well the applicant can perform the tasks assigned.

4. Ask for references.

Reference checking involves obtaining information about applicants from previous employers. Reference checks can supply important information about personality and character. Contacting several references increases your chances of getting an accurate picture of the applicant’s performance.

After the applicants have been interviewed by all team members, assemble your team together and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each applicant. Are their some qualities of an applicant that can be strengthened through some training? Some applicants may not have all of the qualifications you are requiring but with a little training they may become excellent employees.

After your team has selected the right job applicant, out of courtesy notify all applicants of your decisions. A reason for promptly notifying all applicants is that you may want to stay in touch with top applicants in case future openings appear.

The interview process described does not guarantee the selection of the right person, but it may help avoid many common mistakes. Those involved in the hiring process can make their selection decisions with a fuller awareness of the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses.

Dr. Gerald Higginbotham is Ruminant Business Manager in California for Micronutrients, a Division of Heritage Technologies, LLC. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah and Ph.D degree from the University of Arizona. Dr. Higginbotham is a member of the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists and is a diplomat of the American College of Animal Sciences. Contact him at 559-907-8013 or gerald.higginbotham@micro.net.

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