PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Spring here, and John Fries has all the mowers, mulch and trucks he needs to handle any landscaping task. What he doesn’t have is workers, even after spending hundreds of dollars a week on want ads.
Fries: We have had zero potential applicants.
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: Nobody want the job.
Fries: Nobody wants the job.
Fries and other landscapers depend on guest workers from Mexico and other Latin American countries, who work jobs that they can’t fill with Americans. But since the visas are in short supply, and the federal government is balking at raising a cap, Fries may have to do without them this year.
Not only might you have to cut your own grass, but the seasonal workers supplement all sort of businesses, including construction companies like Burns and Scalo, which is building a new home in Fox Chapel.
“It’s going to start hitting customers soon when they’re not getting their landscaping, their bricklaying, their plumbing, their roofing, their air conditioning. We just don’t have enough people,” said Donna Bodnar, of Burns & Scalo.
The so-called H-2B visa program has been around for three decades. The guest workers are registered with Homeland Security, pay taxes and social security and must return home every year after their work is done.
Even though these businesses say the guest workers are legal and protect American workers from illegal immigrant workers, they’ve been dragged into the national debate on immigration.
“It seems that it’s hire American, buy American, and I 100 percent support that. There’s a misconception,” said Bodnar.
There are only 33,000 work visas left, but the demand is three times that. Businesses are asking Congress to lift that cap as part of current its spending bill, but fear they won’t.
“There are 70,000 workers ready to come. We’re here waiting for them. That’s the bottom line, and I’m just hoping Congress will act,” said Bodnar.