Tree planting season ramps up, foreign workers get it done
A Bossier City firm will plant 6 million loblolly pine and other hardwood varieties on managed timberland in the Ark-La-Tex this winter. Lorenzo Tunek, owner of All Regions Services, Inc., is in the process of hiring about 60 temporary workers from Mexico.
Tunek can’t find anyone locally who’s willing to do this kind of backbreaking work. Each worker will plant about 3,000 seedlings per day. Tunek said they’re paid by the number of trees they plant.
“It's not an easy job. It only pays about probably $10-$11 per hour. From there, you have to pay your own lodging. Actually, you end up getting $8.50 or $9 an hour," Tunek said, from his Bossier City office.
Tunek filed a Foreign Labor Certification with the U.S. Labor Department in order to bring in men from Mexico. During the government shutdown, his application was stalled at the national processing center in Chicago. But he still has some time to assemble his workforce. The major tree planting will get underway in mid-December and last through mid-March. He works with about 15 timberland consultants. While he advertises for workers locally, he finds it’s not fruitful. He can’t attract reliable help from the area labor force in this type of work.
“Most of those people who apply for the work, they apply just to get an employment application in. Last year, 20 applied. Out of those 20, when you call them, nobody will show up," Tunek said.
Tunek emigrated from Mexico in the 1980s. He started his business 18 years ago in Odessa, Texas. In the off season, during the summer, Tunek rakes blueberries in Maine.