The green industry showed its dedication to the red, white and blue at Arlington Cemetery and on Capitol Hill July 28-29, honoring our fallen soldiers and advocating for key issues for the industry. PLANET’s 18th annual Renewal & Remembrance project and Legislative Day on the Hill brought together professionals of all kinds from all across the country to donate their time and efforts to the things that matter most to the industry.
More than 400 volunteers from 30 states spent Monday repairing irrigation, aerating, protecting trees and laying down 78 tons of lime on 180 acres of Arlington Cemetery on its 150th anniversary to thank those who served.
Walter Money of Bartlett Tree Experts and a Marine veteran, has spent more than 50 years as an arborist. But he never would have been able to do what he loves without the sacrifice of those interred on the grounds. “I never cease to remember as I walk these hallowed grounds that those 55 years are a privilege granted to me unlike many of the people buried here. They gave their last ounce of devotion so that you and I can be here today doing the work we love for our country,” he said. “We are here today to do with actions what words cannot express. Our work is just a symbol of our gratitude to all those who have served our great nation in every war and armed conflict.”
For many, it was their first day of service at Arlington, but it won’t be their last. “It was spot-on. Everyone was willing to help. It was all about getting it done and giving back to Arlington and the soldiers and I know I’ll be here next year,” said team captain and first-time volunteer Chris DeJohn, operations manager at Green Lawn Fertilizing in Pennsylvania.
And that’s exactly what happened to PLANET President Jim McCutcheon when he decided to make the trip last year – he got hooked. Speaking about the small decisions we make every day, he noted that some chose to make the ultimate sacrifice.
“I think about the simple gifts they give us – the opportunity every night to tuck our children in, to live in the greatest country in the world and to live in safety, to know that we have freedom and we are stronger because these individuals made some simple decisions for us. And some, in that process, sacrificed all, and that’s who we’re here to honor today,” he said.
Following the day of service, many headed to Capitol Hill to voice their support for four key pieces of legislation:
Seasonal workers: Advocates voiced their support for the Simplifying Technical Aspects Regarding Seasonality, or the STARS act, which would simplify the definition of a seasonal worker. This would allow businesses to better understand and execute their health care requirements, PLANET says. The legislation would define a seasonal employee as someone who is on the job for six months or less and exclude them when determining whether or not a business is an applicable large employer.
Immigration reform: Professionals pushed to raise the cap on the number of seasonal workers allowed, as well as legalize workers who haven’t been able to get visas. H-2B reform would also give employers more control over the wage for workers, which employers say would better reflect the current economy and scope of work.
Clean Water Act: PLANET is pushing to rescind the proposed Waters of the United States rule, which lawn and landscape contractors find overly burdensome in terms of permits. Advocates say that this action will relieve confusion and unnecessary bureaucracy surrounding waterways, floodplains and more.
Lyme and Tick-borne Disease Advisory Board: To create a central source of education and prevention of Lyme disease, PLANET members once again pushed for a committee dedicated to tick-borne illnesses. Noting the increase is instances of Lyme disease in particular, attendees asked that an advisory committee be formed to help identify the illness and protect workers from infection as well as research preventative measures and a cure.