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New H-2B Visa Wage Requirements Set to Go Into Effect October 1st Are Now Delayed Until Nov. 30, 2011
Senator Mikulski Vows to Continue Fight for Sensible Rules That Don’t Lead to Job Loss
September 22, 2011
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) announced today that a new federal H-2B visa wage requirement that was set to go into effect October 1st will be delayed 60 days. The Department of Labor (DoL) will issue a notice in the Federal Register next week that will delay the implementation of the new wage requirements until Nov. 30, 2011.
The new wage rule would have raised the hourly wages of temporary foreign workers here on H-2B visas. Recent research shows that this rule would lead to the loss of 1,000 jobs in Maryland's seafood industry.
"We got a pause, but I'm going to keep fighting for a long-term solution that is fair for workers and viable for preserving jobs in Maryland's seafood industry," Senator Mikulski said. "These are jobs that once they are lost, they will never come back. I will not stop fighting until we have a sensible approach to H-2B wages."
Last month, the DoL announced it was accelerating implementation of the rule from January 1, 2012 to October 1, 2011, the middle of the crabbing season. Significantly raising wages in the middle of the season would not allow companies the time to prepare for the adjustment, which could lead to canneries shutting down operations and putting into jeopardy the jobs of Marylanders who rely on a thriving seafood industry.
Currently, H-2B employers pay the prevailing wage for that type of work so workers with comparable tasks or skills are paid in the same category. The new regulations would average the pay of different kinds of jobs regardless of the tasks, skills or industry involved and were drafted without regard for or consultation with the seafood industry. Under this rule an unskilled crab picker could make the same wage as a master butcher who has completed a two-year apprenticeship and has an Associate's Degree in Meat Processing.
"I am a reformer. I believe that in the United States of America, we must have fair wages for all workers," Senator Mikulski said. "But a one-size-fits-all approach on new regulations won't work for Maryland's seafood industry, which is critical for our jobs and for our way of life."
Senator Mikulski is a long-time champion of the H-2B visa program and the jobs it creates in Maryland. Under H-2B visas, seasonal laborers can legally enter the United States to pick crab meat on the Eastern Shore. It protects American workers by requiring employers to recruit American workers first. The H-2B program keeps small and seasonal businesses open by guaranteeing needed labor during the peak seasons.
The return rate for H-2B workers in Maryland is 80 percent each and every year, demonstrating the mutually beneficial success of the program.
Last night, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved Senator Mikulski's amendment to the Senate's Labor HHS 2012 spending bill. The amendment delays the wage rule for one year, allowing for further study of new H-2B visa wage requirements to better prepare Maryland's seafood industry and protect jobs in Maryland.
"Until this issue is resolved, I am going to keep attaching this amendment to any bill that has a shot at becoming law," Senator Mikulski said.