BATON ROUGE, La., Sept. 22, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Industries facing wage hikes up to 83% for seasonal foreign employees — that would threaten their businesses and the economy — may have just been given a reprieve.
Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) have jointly led a successful effort in the Senate Appropriations Committee to have language blocking the H-2B visa foreign labor policy included in legislation that provides funding to the US Department of Labor. The legislation must next be passed by the full Senate and the House of Representatives, and then signed by the President to become permanent.
Ewell Smith, Executive Director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, said, "Given the legislative action taken by the Appropriations Committee last night, the Department of Labor informed us they will delay implementing the October 1 effective date of the new H-2B visa wage rules by 60 days. We will continue to aggressively pursue a resolution to this issue to protect Louisiana jobs and businesses from shutting down." According to Smith, many jobs filled by American employees would be lost or severely affected if the new wage increases for H-2B foreign guest workers are not stopped.
The Senate Appropriation Committee's action follows close on the heels of collective outcry from industry groups, including the National Restaurant Association, speaking out in widespread efforts nationwide to contest the wage rules that threaten businesses and the economy. In separate proceedings related to H-2B wage changes, a hearing in Alexandria, Louisiana scheduled for September 23 has been delayed as a result of the Committee's latest action. The purpose of the hearing will be 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.
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.
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.
SOURCE Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board