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Work Conditions: Time



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Work Conditions: Time

Rather than disputing statements about the health and quality of life issues made by those seeking the ban, blower supporters “. . .change[d] the subject, because there’s nothing they can say to defend the blower itself.” (98.11.1)

Blowers create an illusion of usefulness

Miscellaneous claims regarding time differences between blowers and rake and broom gathering of leaves, dust and debris.
Claimed studies showed a 300-500% increase in work time without blowers.

All studies referred to by blower supporters in the Los Angeles and California State cases were found to be misinterpreted, nonexistent, or did not relate to residential landscape maintenance.  Most were merely opinions. 

As noted in the Economics, Work Time Overview section:

ARB reports state that additional work time might be 5%-15% more, if at all. 
In three timed tests at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, it took only 30 seconds longer for rake and broom than for gas blower to clear leaves and debris.  Rake and broom were faster than other blowers (DWPtest).

Raw footage taped for The Learning Channel production "Inventions We Love to Hate" aired October 17, 2001, shows a 25% difference in worktime for gathering the same amount of leaves from grass. Had gardener and volunteer worked at the same speed, as previously agreed, it is estimated the difference would have been 15%. Removal of leaves was not included in this analysis.

One homeowner who has 2 acres, timed the leaf cleanup of half-an-acre with a rake. It took him only four minutes longer than a using a blower. (93.5.1)

“City of Whittier concluded that a job that took 2.25 labor hours with a backpack leaf blower took. . .282 [hours] with a broom!” California Landscape Contractors Association position paper.
The ending exclamation point is appropriate.  This is an unbelievable assessment, especially when compared with other findings in the same report of opinions.  Like other reports referred to by blower supporters, it appears to be a consolidation of opinions, or guesses, based on unscientific observations.  It’s purpose was to support city department budget requests. 
Upon receipt of a letter from a ZAP member requesting clarification of confusing disparities within the report, the City manager stated that there had been no study.
Pasadena “study” showed it would be more expensive to clean out the stadium with brooms.
The Pasadena Rose Bowl, especially after a game, is not representative of residential neighborhood, or any other lawn and garden maintenance clean up.  We do not have facts regarding the accuracy of this study, who designed it, who oversaw it, what their affiliations were, or whether or not it was conducted in an unbiased manner, as was the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power study which is noted above.
It is unlikely that clean up of this magnitude is conducted by the small-business or independent gardeners who refer to this study to back up their claims that they would have to go on welfare if they can not use blowers.
Landscape Contractors association members estimate of cost increases from 20% - 40% to perform same functions without blowers.
CLCA Position Paper (97.6.3)
Again, estimates, not unbiased, timed studies.
Though much higher than ARB, homeowner and grassroots group estimates, these are figures worth looking at if they were limited to the same jobs done by blowers only, i.e. gathering leaves, dust and debris.  It should be noted that this claim does not differentiate between residential locations and business locations, or between gas and electric blowers. 
There are machines other than blowers available to quickly clean large open hardscape (patios, decks, walkways, driveways, sidewalks, gutters, streets).  They vacuum or sweep up dust and debris.  See Alternatives.
The L.A. ban on gas blowers within 500 feet of a residence does not eliminate electric blowers and does not affect business locations beyond 500 feet from a residence, even though the noise may echo far from parking structures and off of shopping mall walls.
“We do this house now in an hour with three people. . . We would have to stay for three hours with heavy broom.” (98.2.8)
This seems to say that it takes three-man hours now, which we must assume includes mowing, trimming and other work.  If they stop using a blower, would they use a broom instead of a rake on the lawn? 
The quoted statement indicates that their work time would increase to nine man-hours just to do leaf, dust and debris gathering with a broom.  That seems an overstatement.
This is an example of many instances of incomplete reporting by the press.  No follow-up questions appear to have been asked to gain realistic facts, so that employers can apply facts to their own unique situation.
Claimed it would take 40% longer to work without blowers. 
This would mean a ten minute clean-up, for instance, would take approximately four minutes longer.
It takes 20 minutes with blower.  It would take 3-4 hours with a rake. (98.8.2)
This suggest it would take 9-to-12 times longer to use a rake.  The highest estimate ever. 
How about a combination of rake and broom?  Especially on hardscape.  Rakes work best for large items such as leaves and debris, followed up by a broom for dust and dirt.
Claimed the work takes 5 times longer to work without blowers. These figures would mean a ten minute clean-up, for instance, would take about an hour, just for gathering leaves and debris
“It takes about 5 minutes to clean up a driveway with a backpack blower and at least 15 minutes to do the same job with a broom” Val Santelli, owner of Great Neck based garden center.  (98.7.1)
Blowers are disturbing and irritating neighbors so driveways can look spotless for the few minutes it takes for another leaf to fall!
Average gardener will lose 50% of his income
There are no reports of this having occurred.  If this web site should get such a report, we would want to verify it.
“. . .work will take twice as long. . .customers are not willing to pay more” (98.1.3 B6)
“[I] won’t raise rates.  They wouldn’t pay me if I did”. (98.2.4)
“Many of the men said their customers are not willing to pay more for slower work.”  (98.1.3)
Of all ZAP Survey99 participants, only one had ever been asked for a raise, though 86% stated they would be willing to discuss a pay and/or work load adjustment with a worker who was willing to discontinue the use of blowers.
This is an assumption on the part of gardeners.  When asked, all gardeners questioned by ZAP members admit no customers were actually asked for raises for fear of being fired.
Reporters do not seem to follow up these statements in order to contact customers referred to for verification.
“The price increase would clearly cause many people already on the edge of poverty to lose their jobs”. 
(CA State Senate Business and Professions Committee SB1651 Bill Analysis of April 13, 1998, Comments 1.Purpose)
There have been no reports of any competent, reliable gardeners in Los Angeles or Santa Barbara losing their jobs since the ban on gasoline leaf blowers.  Should we receive information that would appear to prove otherwise, we would seek to confirm it.
Fighting for “the right to earn a living wage”
-- Gardener’s Association representative (98.1.4)
Did the same gardener’s association offer business and communication skills workshops to teach workers how to ask for and to justify a raise?  Had the Association worked with the L.A. City Community Development Department for specialized Business Assistance for independent and small business gardeners? Did they offer group health insurance?  Do they make bulk purchases of equipment and re-sell at cost to members? It is not the responsibility of ban advocates to do so. 
“There are too many of us . . .There’s too much competition now.” A gardener. (98.1.10)
Competition is a problem in many businesses.  However, leaf blower regulations and bans do not create the competition. 
The ban “would unfairly disadvantage gardeners by making their jobs more time-consuming.” attributed to “Opponents, including several L.A. City Council members” (97.12.3)
Adjusting to market demands, laws and regulations is a part of every business.  Trade associations should disseminate business advice.
“City taking away people’s ability to earn a living.” State representative. (98.1.9)
This politician could help by introducing legislation to provide business classes or negotiation training to these workers.  He could use the press and newsletters to educate the public about reasonable pay increases, instead of using scare tactics.
The city of Los Angeles offers business assistance and entrepreneurial training through their Community Development Department.
Do the workers know the self-employed can get into the Social Security system by figuring out their contribution and entering it on their tax forms.  If they earn more than $400 per year, they are required by law to do so.  Remember, the Social Security system may include Medicare when these workers are Seniors.
Fact Sheet #05-10022, “If you Are Self Employed” can be picked up in local offices, found through 800 772-1213. 
“I don’t have another way to buy food for my kids without using the blower . . .That’s how I earn my living.  Do they want my family to be homeless?” (98.1.3)
We don’t want you, your family, our own families, or others to be affected by blower pollution or stress, either.
The blower is only one tool.  It serves only one purpose, and there are alternative tools for that.  It doesn’t mow grass, trim hedges, water or plant flowers.  It is not the whole job.
“[If prices are raised,] newer immigrant gardeners might undercut prices and steal customers.”  -- A Gardener (98.2.8)
This is a real concern to independent contractors and small businesses in California.  Where employers are shown a realistic increase in work time without blowers, many will agree to discuss rational increases in pay for gardeners who have been reliable in the past. (See Survey99)  Some of these increases may be only a few dollars per employer per month, but would keep the income of the worker consistent with that earned with blowers.
Where employers do not want to raise prices, they can adjust cleanliness expectations, landscape design, or work patterns.  For instance, skip back or side yards on alternate weeks. 
One gardener said, “I’m going to waste less money now”, on gas ($60 a month), and to buy and maintain “expensive equipment.” (96.5.1)
And on the time it takes to purchase gas, refill gas blowers, and clean up spills.