Labor and Immigration

Comprehensive immigration reform includes four pillars of reform: legalization; employment verification systems; temporary worker programs; and border security. GCSAA does not engage in the debate over legalization or border security. Due to the difficulty many golf facilities have in finding permanent and seasonal U.S. workers, GCSAA supports comprehensive immigration reform that includes guest worker provisions. Reform measures should safeguard seasonal worker programs and not place undue economic burdens on employers. Reform should create an immigration system and guest worker program that functions efficiently for employers, workers and government agencies. Reform should create a program that ensures U.S. workers are not displaced by foreign workers and ensures that all workers enjoy the same labor law protections. Reform should strengthen national security by providing for the screening of foreign workers and creating a disincentive for illegal immigration. Enforcement of immigration laws is critical for the economic vitality of the country, national security and for successful comprehensive immigration reform. GCSAA supports reform that creates a fair employment eligibility verification system for new hires that functions efficiently, effectively, and inexpensively for employers, workers and government agencies.

GCSAA would like a more reasonable approach to overtime pay. We acknowledge the hard work the Department of Labor put into crafting the new overtime pay regulations but we want the agency to withdraw the rule and develop a new one that takes into consideration regional cost of living expenses. We want to see a phased in approach to the increase to the annual salary threshold also. GCSAA members need additional time for employers to ensure compliance, communicate changes and accurately reclassify employees. GCSAA supports several pieces of legislation in Congress that reflect our concerns including:.

  • H.R. 4773 – Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act
  • S. 2707 - Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act
  • H.R. 5813 – Overtime Reform and Enhancement Act

An available, legal and trained workforce is vital to the economic success of golf facilities and a top priority for the golf industry. Bureau of Labor Statistics data demonstrates the demographic reality that the U.S. population is aging, growth in the young workforce is declining, young workers are increasingly educated and disinterested in unskilled labor jobs, and major worker shortages are forecasted especially for seasonal and less-skilled positions. Significant labor shortages will make it difficult for many golf facilities to fill both their permanent and temporary/seasonal labor needs. The nation’s golf courses cannot be sustained, or grow, without access to an adequate workforce. Many depend on immigrant labor due to the difficulty in finding U.S. workers willing to take seasonal, unskilled jobs. Proper documentation of workers presents its own set of unique challenges. The U.S. labor shortage, comprehensive immigration reform and mandatory use of E-Verify are issues Congress continues to debate as they try to address the need for a stable, legal workforce to ensure the nation’s economic security.

The federal H-2B visa program is used by U.S. golf facilities to secure legal employees when they cannot fill seasonal jobs with American workers despite intensive recruitment efforts. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) must certify that qualified workers are not available in the U.S. and that the foreign worker’s employment will not adversely affect wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers. There is an annual 66,000 H-2B visa cap, when in times of economic prosperity, has been reached early. According to DOL statistics, in 2006, golf facilities (including resorts) asked for approximately 26,000 H-2B visa workers – of that number over 7,700 were for golf course maintenance positions. The number of H-2B visa workers in the golf industry has declined with the country’s economic decline. Requests for H-2B visa workers at golf facilities will increase as the economy rebuilds and there is more competition for seasonal labor.

The H-2B visa program has been under attack since 2009. DOL continues to issue and finalize regulations that significantly increase the hourly wages that must be paid to H-2B workers as well as revamp the program entirely thereby making it difficult if not impossible for small, seasonal employers to use. In some instances, DOL regulations have been temporarily stopped by Congress or litigation. In 2015, the DOL and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) jointly issued the H-2B Comprehensive Final Rule and the H-2B Wage Methodology Final Rule. These rules increase costs, petition requirements and burdensome recordkeeping on small businesses. The regulations were issued as final rules with no opportunity for input from the regulated community.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly called the Affordable Care Act or "Obamacare” is a United States federal statute signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. It represents the most significant regulatory overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. Golf facilities are closely monitoring implementation of the PPACA for any impacts to the bottom line. Golf facilities are preparing for increased administrative and paperwork requirements as they comply with the new mandates. In addition, health care costs will likely increase at golf courses. Treatment of seasonal workers is of special concern.

In the summer of 2015, the Department of Labor (DOL) released new overtime pay regulations. The regulations are in response to a 2014 directive by President Obama to update overtime rules under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). FLSA guarantees overtime pay at a rate of one and one-half the employee’s regular rate of pay for hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek. The current FLSA has a salary threshold of $23,660 annually ($455 per week), meaning ANY employee making less is eligible for overtime. Employees making over the $23,660 annual threshold are eligible for overtime unless they fall under a specific industry exemption (teachers, doctors, lawyers) or the “white collar exemption.” These exemptions include; executive/managerial, administrative, professional, outside sales and computer employees. On May 18, 2016 President Obama announced the publication of the DOL’s final rule updating the overtime regulations. The final rule sets the standard salary level at the 40th percentile of earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census Region, currently the South ($913 per week; $47,476 annually for a full-year worker) starting December 1, 2016. The final rule will be highly costly to golf facilities – most of which are small businesses.

GCSAA has been pushing for passage of comprehensive immigration reform legislation since 2006.

In 2011, GCSAA worked with the H-2B Workforce Coalition to successfully lobby Congress to include an amendment in the Fiscal Year 2012 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, which stopped any federal funding of the DOL’s wage rule until October 1, 2013. Congress extended the wage rule prohibition until March 27, 2013 with the signing of the 6 month FY2013 Continuing Resolution.

In 2011, GCSAA supported litigation filed in the U.S. District Court in Florida that challenged the propriety of the wage rule concerning the computation and implementation of the prevailing wages for H-2B visa holders.

In 2012, GCSAA supported additional litigation filed in the U.S. District Court of Florida that challenged the DOL’s proposed H-2B visa program overhaul rule.

In 2013, GCSAA continued to support ongoing litigation challenging the DOL’s wage and program overhaul rules. GCSAA also actively supported passage of comprehensive immigration reform legislation in Congress as well as legislation that blocked implementation of the new 2013 DOL emergency wage rule.

In June 2013, GCSAA submitted comments to DOL in opposition to their H-2B emergency wage rule that increased wages by 30% in the middle of the golfing season.

In 2014, GCSAA supported the bipartisan STARS Act of 2014, which bill would simplify seasonal employer compliance with the PPACA.

At the 2014 Golf Industry Show, GCSAA presented "Healthcare Reform: What You Need to Know Now". This presentation gave superintendents an early working knowledge of the PPACA and the potential treatment of seasonal workers under the PPACA.

In 2014, GCSAA supported the bipartisan STARS Act of 2014, which bill would simplify seasonal employer compliance with the PPACA.

In 2014, GCSAA supported H.R. 4238, a comprehensive bill to preserve and protect the H-2B visa program. The bill would clarify the "prevailing wage" methodology that should be used for setting H-2B wages and reinstate the H-2B returning worker exemption.

In 2015, GCSAA submitted comment as part of the H-2B Workforce Coalition expressing that the U.S. Secretary of Labor doesn’t have the power to issue a declaratory order confirming his ability to set H-2B labor certification program policy.

GCSAA members participated in the H-2B Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill on April 15, 2015.

In 2105, GCSAA pushed for passage of positive H-2B provisions included in the House and Senate Departments of Homeland Security and Labor appropriations bills into the final FY2015 omnibus spending bill.

In 2015, GCSAA partnered with the PGA of America, CMAA, NGCOA and the NCA to jointly develop public comments regarding the U.S. Department’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding overtime pay regulations.

In 2016, GCSAA partnered with the PGA of America, CMAA, NGCOA and the NCA to jointly develop a letter in support of H.R. 5813, the Overtime Reform and Enhancement Act.

GCSAA hosted a widely attended webinar on June 29, 2016, called "Getting Ready for the New Department of Labor Overtime Rules".