Critics of the H-2B program often allege that the program reduces opportunities and wages for American workers. Although false opponents of the program, both on the far-left and far-right, continue to make these allegations. They cannot continue to go unchallenged. On July 17th, in partnership with the Niskanen Center, we hosted a panel discussion to address these criticisms.
Danielle Bane (co-owner, Quality One, Havre de Grace, MD) and Ron Houska (co-owner, Houska Inc., Foristell, MO) participated in the panel with labor economist Dr. Stephen Bronars. Quality One and Houska Inc were both denied access to the second half allotment of 33,000 visas due to the visa cap. The consequences were severe. They cycled through dozens and dozens of American workers, few who lasted more than a day or two. Their overhead cots skyrocketed and they had to cancel numerous contracts, many of which they will not regain.
In 2010 Houska Inc entered into an collective bargaining agreement with a local union. The wage level is higher than the Department of Labor prevailing wage. The union did not provide applicants and the high wage did not lead to additional interest from the local labor force.
The Center for Immigration Studies frequently says that the the H-2B visa program is unnecessary and that it should be replaced with a “domestic guest-worker program”. Quality One took this suggestion to heart. They contracted with a recruiting firm that recruited domestic workers from throughout the country. After paying for the airfare for over a dozen workers, none remain with the company today. This cost them in excess of $25,000. They made it through their busy spring season by hiring workers from their local home-school network and church. Although they were appreciative of the help, it was not enough. The work quality suffered and it was not enough man power to fulfill their contracts.
The panel began with remarks from Congressman Andy Harris. The seafood processors in Harris’ district are reliant on the H-2B program to supplement their American crab pickers.