Washington, D.C., December 16, 2009 – The H-2B Workforce Coalition
believes that it is important for Congress to address comprehensive immigration
reform, including much needed relief for many seasonal industries that
use the H-2B program to supplement their year-round domestic work force
during peak seasons when too few American workers are available.
“While we appreciate Rep. Gutierrez and other supporters of the Comprehensive
Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity (CIR-ASAP) legislation
for highlighting the importance of immigration reform, we are concerned
about the proposed legislation’s characterization of the H-2B program and
its failure to provide meaningful cap relief for small and seasonal employers,”
said a coalition spokesperson.
The H-2B program is essential to the economic vitality of a diverse
group of small businesses including landscape contractors, hotels, restaurants,
seafood and food processing companies, carnivals, ski resorts, pool companies
and stone quarries. Before a company can hire a worker under the
H-2B program, it must undertake an intensive recruitment process to find
American workers under the supervision of the Department of Labor (DOL),
which must certify that hiring H-2B workers does not negatively impact
American jobs. The request must then be approved by the U.S. Department
of Homeland Security (DHS). After DHS approves the request for workers,
each individual worker must be interviewed by the American consulate in
their home country before a visa is issued to insure that he or she is
not a security risk and will return home after the completion of the seasonal
work. The wage rates paid to these workers are well above minimum
wage and are set by the U.S. Department of Labor. Because the H-2B
workers are treated and paid well, many workers return to the same employer
year after year. Changes that make the program unworkable will in
the end harm law-abiding foreign workers who enter the United States, work
and depart safely and legally, as well as their families.
Unfortunately, the H-2B program contains a cap of 66,000, which especially
in a strong economy, is far below the market demand for legal seasonal
labor. For the past few years, many seasonal employers were unable
to find the American workers they needed and suffered substantial economic
losses due to the expiration of a provision of law that exempted returning
workers from the cap. The H-2B program is, in short, part of the solution
to the larger immigration challenges our country faces.
Seasonal businesses need permanent access to a reliable and predictable
labor source. Congressional action is essential not only for the vitality
of small seasonal businesses and their American workforce, but also for
growers, vehicle and equipment manufacturers, and other suppliers whose
prosperity is closely linked to the economic health of seasonal industries.
The H-2B Workforce Coalition is a consortium of various industry associations
throughout the United States that have joined together to protect American
workers by ensuring American small and seasonal employers have access to
legal short-term temporary workers during peak business periods. For more
information about the Coalition, please visit www.h2bworkforcecoalition.com.
Serving the hospitality industry for a century, the American Hotel
& Lodging Association (AH&LA) is the sole national association
representing all sectors and stakeholders in the lodging industry, including
individual hotel property members, hotel companies, student and faculty
members, and industry suppliers. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., AH&LA
provides members with national advocacy on Capitol Hill, public relations
and image management, education, research and information, and other value-added
services to provide bottom-line savings and ensure a positive business
climate for the lodging industry. Partner state associations provide local
representation and additional cost-saving benefits to members. For
more about AH&LA and our 100th anniversary, visit www.ahla.com.