Saturday morning cartoons told the truth about one thing: goats will eat just about anything they can get their mouths on. That includes poison ivy and hard-to-weed underbrush. This makes them a good choice for landscaping companies looking to clear lots. There’s just one problem, from the perspective of a landscaper: goats are a lot cheaper than human workers.
Now, a labor union says that one university has been using goats to replace humans on a campus landscaping crew.
The Detroit Free Press reports:
The 400-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has filed a grievance contending that the work the goats are doing in a wooded lot is taking away jobs from laid-off union workers.
“AFSCME takes protecting the jobs of its members very seriously and we have an agreed-upon collective bargaining agreement with Western Michigan [University],” said Union President Dennis Moore. “We expect the contract to be followed, and in circumstances where we feel it’s needed, we file a grievance.”
Will Goats Eat Your Job?
A spokesperson for Western Michigan says that the goats were there to clear poison ivy, not to chomp grass (a union job).
“For the second summer in a row, we’ve brought in a goat crew to clear undergrowth in a woodlot, much of it poison ivy and other vegetation that is a problem for humans to remove,” she said. “Not wanting to use chemicals, either, we chose the goat solution to stay environmentally friendly.”
The 20-goat crew comes from a company called Munchers on Hooves, a Coldwater, Mich.-based company which rents goats to homeowners and organizations for use as living, breathing farm equipment.
A 2016 MiBiz item about the goat landscaping pilot program noted that the method was said to be more environmentally friendly than conventional brush-clearing technology, but also quoted a WMU horticulturist as saying that the goats were less expensive — about $300 cheaper per quarter acre.
However, if you’re a landscaper, you probably don’t need to panic. Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post dug into the numbers, and concluded that — at most — goats might endanger 347 full-time jobs.
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