When George Hohman, founder and president of Turfscape grounds maintenance and landscaping company, filed his paperwork for H-2B worker visas this year, he asked for 54 seasonal workers to start in April. But of the 66,000 visas available nationwide, he didn't get a single one.
So he hired dozens of local people, including college students who were only here through August. But once they had a taste of the work—mowing lawns, spreading mulch and pruning shrubs in the heat and humidity—many of them quit. He and his managers joined their crews out in the fields, scrambling to make up for the labor shortage, but some clients grew impatient over missed deadlines.
"We got fired from six or seven contracts in May and June, because we couldn't complete our services in time," Hohman said. "It was devastating, absolutely devastating. It was the first time in 30 years that I was in a position that we couldn't do anything about."
The H-2B visa program, designed to let employers hire temporary workers for non-agricultural jobs, is becoming stricter and more heavily regulated, squeezing many landscaping companies that can't hire the employees they need. Businesses that used to get all the workers they applied for now must compete in a lottery for those 66,000 visas.
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