he new season is off and running to a slow start… with all the usual “headaches” of getting started – fruit and vegetable maturity, weather, and an uncertain labor pool. Besides that, there are elections that may change the shape and size of our labor pool – so past hurricanes may not have been our worst nightmare……..

The U.S Department of Labor and the Florida DBPR will hold three seminars the first week of December concerning the H-2A visa program and the transition from Tallahassee to Atlanta in the near future for all Federal Registrations. These meetings will be on Monday, December 4th, at the Turner Center in Arcadia, Tuesday, December 5th, in Winter Haven at Nora Mayo Hall, and Wednesday, December 6th,in Palmetto at the Manatee Civic Center. All the meetings start promptly at 5:30 PM and will include investigators from the USDOL and DBPR as well as staff from the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation. At this time there are no registration requirements – so plan to attend and get all your H-2A questions answered!

The minimum wage will change for the State of Florida again this coming January 1st! Florida’s minimum wage will increase to $6.67 an hour on January 1, 2007, a .27 cent an hour increase to match inflation as required by an initiative passed by the voters. The amendment tied the state’s minimum wage to inflation, requiring an adjustment each year. The $6.67 rate will start January 1, 2007. This year, the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation has developed posters for the workplace about the Florida minimum wage that will need to be posted on January 1, 2007. We will have the posters available here at CHAPP in December. Also, please remember to change your Worker Information – Terms and Conditions of Employment forms to comply with this change in January!

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE – formerly the INS) has proposed a new rule on the dreaded Social Security Number miss-match letter. Currently, you should be advising the workers for whom you receive this letter that there is a problem and they need to go to the Social Security Office and correct the problem. You should do this several times and keep a record of the times you asked the employee to do this. If, and when, the proposed rule is finalized, the new rule will require the employer to notify the worker, and if the worker doesn’t resolve the problem within 60 days of the letter, the employer will have no choice but to terminate the worker. There is a provision in the new rule to provide the employer with immunity from a lawsuit arising out of this termination. We have sample letters here at CHAPP to help you comply with the current rule and a copy of the proposed rule that should become effective in early next year – just call us for copies! (See Federal Register, Vol 71, #114, from 6/14/2006)

A new season means time to review safety with your crew leaders, supervisors, and drivers! The new season brings a great opportunity to focus on safety. Please review your safety policies and concerns with your key personnel. They will be better equipped to help you run a safe operation and understand your commitment to worker safety. Our loss control staff has hand-out materials, check lists, vehicle inspection forms, etc., to help with any safety concern for your operation – from training to company policies. Please don’t hesitate to call our loss control staff with your requests or concerns. We are here to help you maintain a safe work place for your employees.

We would appreciate any questions, comments, or ideas for topics you may have! Please call us at (800)242-7898 or e-mail us at wwurth@chappinc.com . Remember: Life did not begin by accident. Don’t let it end as one!