News & Issues

FRA and other members of the H-2B Workforce Coalition are following up on our win, this April, in defending last year’s preliminary injunction blocking the federal Department of Labor’s 2012 H-2B Guestworker “Program Rule,” which would have made the H-2B program unworkable. This “Program Rule” governs the logistics of the H-2B guestworker program, which covers foreign guestworkers employed in the handplanting of tree seedlings. The Coalition is now filing a motion with the same 11th Circuit Court (in Florida) to convert that Court’s previous “preliminary injunction” into a “permanent injunction.”

In one of the more dramatic discrepancies in interpreting data we’re aware of, the American Transportation Research Institute—the American Trucking Associations’ research arm—disputed the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s estimate of the financial “benefits” the new Hours of Service Rule would provide to the trucking sector. According to FMCSA’s projection, the new HOS rule’s disputed “restart” provision—which establishes new off-duty requirements between drivers’ work periods—will save the U.S. trucking sector $133 million a year, apparently in drivers’ health and public safety benefits. ATRI, finding FMCSA’s sampling methodology and assumptions seriously flawed, concludes, on the contrary, that the “restart” provision will cost the sector $189 million annually.

On June 25, President Obama released the 21-page President’s Climate Action Plan, an outline of priorities and policy initiatives addressing the threat of climate change. The Plan stresses three courses of action:

On June 27, the Senate passed its comprehensive Immigration Bill (S 744)—unfortunately including the terms of Senator Merkley’s (D-Oregon) amendment, placing unworkable stipulations on reforestation contractors seeking to obtain visas for H-2B guestworkers. Attention now shifts to the House, which has indicated that it will probably pass a series of bills, rather than a comprehensive bill, to address such controversial issues such as amnesty, treatment of minor-age aliens, securing the border, a path forward to citizenship—and reform of guestworker programs, including the H-2B program that regulates guestworkers employed by reforestation contractors.

On March 6, a broad group of collaborators, significantly drawn from leaders of the 25x’25 Bio-Energy Coalition but including representatives of several other organizations, formally announced creation of a project called Solutions from the Land and released its 45-page Pathways Report. This Report...

The H-2B Workforce Coalition, in the governance of which FRA participates, recently finalized and published Principles for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, presenting background on...

On February 14, Rep. Ed Royce (R-California) reintroduced the Credit Union Small Business Jobs Creation Act (HR 688), which would liberalize federal rules that currently restrict credit unions from allocating more than 12.25% of their assets to small business borrowers. The legislation would increase that lending cap to 27.5% for credit unions that meet stipulated requirements. The bill already has strong (and growing) cosponsorship, and although support is more bipartisan than it was last year, Democratic cosponsors currently outnumber Republicans by a ratio of about 1 to 4.

In response to concerns by some county commissioners that unidentified loggers in Alabama were not being held accountable for alleged damage to public roads, the state legislature passed what sounds like a very mild piece of legislation allowing (not requiring) counties to require loggers to provide “prior notice of intent” to use county roads or rights-of-way prior to operations.

At the close of 2012, Sustainable Forestry Initiative President Kathy Abusow summed up some significant signs that SFI is expanding and gaining credibility as a guarantor of sustainable forest management, pointing out:

On January 7, the H-2B Workforce Litigation Committee, in which FRA participates, filed an appeal brief with the Philadelphia-based Third Circuit Court of Appeals, challenging Judge Legrome Davis’s unfavorable decision on our challenge to the Department of Labor’s guestworker wage rule under the H-2B visa program at the District Court level. The H-2B visa program governs employer access to non-immigrant aliens working in certain categories of seasonal employment, including hand-planting of tree seedlings.
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