Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board Announces Louisiana Industries Sue Government Over New Policy for Foreign Employees


Sep 13, 2011, 22:41 ET from Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 13, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Industries relying on seasonal temporary foreign employees are facing changes to the H-2B visa foreign worker labor policy that could be devastating to the economy.  A hearing in Alexandria, Louisiana on September 23 will be held to consider a temporary restraining order (TRO) filed by an alliance of Louisiana industries which includes members of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board.

The seafood industry, forestry product manufacturers, hotel and amusement park operators, and sugar cane processors are just some of the businesses that will be affected by the new proposed regulations being set forth by the Department of Labor.  In response, a group of plaintiffs, including the Crawfish Processors Alliance, Inc. and American Shrimp Processors Association, has filed a federal lawsuit against the US Department of Labor and Homeland Security in US District Court to postpone or permanently halt the changes, which are set to take effect September 30, 2011.  The hearing on the TRO is set for Federal Court on September 23, 2011 at 9:30 a.m. at the Alexandria Courthouse, 515 Murray Street, Alexandria, LA.

Ewell Smith, Executive Director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, says, "The seafood industry currently provides many jobs for American employees.  Those jobs will be lost to our economy and the U.S. workers in these non-H-2B jobs will be severely affected if the new wage increases for H-2B foreign guest workers are not stopped before September 30."

Created in 1987, the federal H-2B program allows nonimmigrant alien laborers to work seasonal, temporary jobs that Americans haven't wanted in the past.  Small business groups in Louisiana rely heavily on these workers to produce their products.  The new Department of Labor regulations for the H-2B program will raise wages dramatically, by as much as 83 percent in some instances.  

Mike Voisin, CEO of Motivatit, one of the largest oyster processors in the U.S., says he prefers to hire American workers.  "But we can't get them to do these jobs," he continued.  One of the groups in the suit, the Crawfish Processors Alliance, is represented by Frank Randol, who runs a crawfish business and Cajun restaurant in Lafayette.  "In 40 years in the business I've faced a lot of challenges, but now we are facing our own government trying to shut us down."

Seafood processors depend on H-2B workers to support the farmers who raise their crawfish in paddies and fishermen to process the seafood harvest.  The downstream restaurant, grocers, and wholesale seafood purveyors also are dependent on the output of the processing operations.  Hundreds of businesses in Louisiana with thousands of employees will be negatively affected.

Added Smith, "The new H-2B prevailing wage rate will cripple Louisiana employers while many of our foreign competitors, who do not face such labor costs, are already operating at a significant advantage."

"The impact of these changes will not be to hire more American workers, it will be to shut these businesses down.  And then tens of thousands more will be out of jobs."

The LSPMB was created in 1984 by the state of Louisiana to support their vast historical commercial fisheries industry.  The Board is composed of 15 members and each member represents a sector of the industry: harvesters, processors, wholesalers, restaurateurs/retailers, fisheries resource managers, public health officers and marketing specialists.

Contact:  Ashley Roth (504) 286-8735 or Ashley@LouisianaSeafood.com  

SOURCE Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board