Documenting seasonal employers efforts to recruit American workers displaced by COVID-19, part one in a multi-part series

Seasonal employers, like most American businesses, have suffered economic harm due to the shutdowns implemented in response to COVID-19. The impact to each occupation varies widely. The outdoor amusement industry is at a standstill as most carnivals and fairs are cancelled for the near future.  Currently, many hotels have closed, while bookings through late spring and into early summer are light.  The landscape industry, however, is still facing a labor shortage. The grass has not stopped growing.

Of course, these seasonal employers are willing to hire any American workers who apply and are displaced by the economic impact of COVID-19. Seasonal employers are going beyond the requirements set by the government to recruit American workers. This is their obligation and duty in this present crisis.

Each day, on this blog, I will highlight the story of a seasonal employer’s attempt to operate its business during this uncertain time.

The focus of today’s post is All Metroplex Landscape Services of Dallas, TX. All Metroplex Landscape Services, Inc was established in 1992 by Tim Harrelson. The company struggled to turn a profit for the first 15 years of its existence. His staff turnover was high and the quality of work was unreliable. Harreslon knew that he either had to find additional labor or he would have to shut his doors.

In 2008, out of options, he decided to turn to the H-2B program. The H-2B program transformed his business. In 2008, he employed 12 full-time, year-round American workers and now he employs 19 full-time, year-round American workers. Its revenue has increased by 175%. All Metroplex Landscape Services went from the brink of closing its doors to a thriving company that can support the salaries of 19 full-time, year-round American workers.

In 2020, All Metroplex Landscape Services applied for 34 H-2B workers but was denied access to the program due to the insufficient number of H-2B visas. Harrelson understands the H-2B program is an unpredictable program and is constantly working to recruit American workers. He advertises the open positions on Facebook and given that his office is located across the street from a DART metro station, gets a substantial amount of walk in traffic from people who see his now hiring signs. If a worker has no experience he offers $13.75 an hour but he offers in excess of $16 an hour if the worker has prior landscape experience. Harrelson told me, “If you show up with a completed application, you are hired on the spot.”

Harreslon says that one to five people a day ask for an application but only an average of two people show up with a completed application each week. Since January, Harrelson has hired dozens of Americans for the H-2B positions but only two remain with his company today. Last week he hired three people. One worked for a day but then emailed him and said he was no longer interested in the job. The other two idled for most of the day, watching the other crew members work. They had to be fired. One did not take well to being let go and threatened violence.

All Metroplex trucks sitting idle

No one can say that Harrelson is not going above and beyond to recruit and hire American workers. He is willing to hire all willing and qualified American workers, including those displaced by the economic impact of COVID-19, but he still needs his H-2B workforce. The high turnover and poor quality of work have caused lasting damage to his business. He is currently in the process of canceling 40% of his company’s contracts due to the labor shortage. He expects his revenue to drop to what it was in 2008. Harrelson has invested over 28 years of his life in his business and not everything he has built is at risk. He will have to reduce his supply and equipment purchases by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

This is one story of many, more to come.

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