FRA Issue Update - 8/9/19

FRA Timeline for DOL Proposal to Move Forestry from H2B to H2A

As previously reported in past Issue Updates, the Department of Labor has proposed a rule that would move forestry services from the H-2B to the uncapped H-2A non-immigrant worker visa program. FRA is currently reviewing the 489-page document. We do have some concerns regarding changes in housing requirements and the application process requirements. A summary of the proposed rule and how the changes compare to the H-2B program will be ready for review by or before August 20. After we hear back from our members, FRA will prepare final comments to submit to the DOL. Comments are due September 24. Our goal is to work with the DOL to create a final rule that benefits the forest products industry.

Independent Contractor Status Legislation Reintroduced

Just before Congress recessed for the month of August, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) introduced legislation addressing independent contractors—a labor pool utilized by the forestry sector. The bill—titled the Modern Worker Empowerment Act (H.R. 4069)—would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act by adopting a common-law test to define the term “employee.” Harmonizing the definition of “employee” across the many federal statutes under which this term has different meanings would bring much needed certainty to independent entrepreneurs that their intended independent-contractor relationships will be respected for purposes of federal law. Joining Representative Stefanik on this bill are Representatives Bradley Byrne (R-AL), Phil Roe (R-TN), and Ron Wright (R-TX). The text of the legislation may be found here.

H.R. 4069 is identical to the Harmonization of Coverage Act of 2017, H.R. 3825, which was introduced in the last Congress. FRA has been working with the coalition advocating for passage of this bill focusing on recruiting Democrat support for the legislation. We signed onto this letter that expresses strong support for the bill that will be used to recruit additional cosponsors.  

Don’t Forget the Fly-in…

The FRA Fly-In and Fall Board Meeting is scheduled for September 17-19, 2019. Timing is perfect to advance FRA policy initiatives of transportation, carbon neutrality of forest-based biomass and guest worker visa programs. FRA encourages employers to support employees who want to attend. Your participation is important and you do make a difference. CLICK HERE to read this week’s Woods to Mill blog on the importance of attending a legislative Fly-In, authored by FRA Consultant Pat Rita.

Before we go…

Democratic presidential candidates Senators Booker, Klobuchar, Gillibrand and Warren released plans to combat climate change this week. These proposals and legislation that will likely surface after the August recess promote tree planting and incentivizing farmers to adopt conservation practices. The forest industry should be looked at as a role model here; we’ve been fighting climate change by renewing forests, and voluntarily implementing Best Management Practices and Forest Management Guidelines. To these four presidential candidates, FRA stands ready to discuss the forest products industry’s role as a solution in creating a solution to climate change.