On behalf of the 2,500+ small and seasonal businesses the Seasonal Employment Alliance represents, we want to thank the White House, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor for recognizing the crisis level labor shortage faced by America’s small and seasonal employers by releasing 35,000 additional H-2B visas towards the FY22 second half H-2B visa allotment. Reflecting the current labor conditions, this is the most visas DHS has released since it was given this authority by Congress five years ago.
Recent Department of Labor data shows that there are only 0.6 available workers for every job opening, the lowest on record. If employers offering full-time, year-round work cannot find workers then how can we expect seasonal employers to attract workers? The H-2B program plays a critical role in filling this gap in the labor market. We applaud the administration for understanding this by prioritizing the needs of America’s small businesses as we seek to do our part to help build back better.
Beneficiaries of the additional visa release, such as the second-generation Lindy’s Seafood, will now be able to provide crab meat to its customers. “‘I want to thank the Biden administration for recognizing the crisis level labor shortage of the Maryland crab industry by releasing 35,000 additional visas,’ said Aubrey Vincent, sales manager, Lindy’s Seafood. ‘Approximately 90% of Maryland’s cab producers were capped out for this season. Without these additional visas, we expected our industry’s crab production to decline by over 75%. This would have put further pressure on the already high crab meat prices, led to our foreign competitors capturing a greater share of the American market and put the viability of the many of the few remaining crab processors in question. We are thankful to survive for one more season but hope that Congress understands the urgent need to permanently reform this program.'”
In addition, small, family-owned hotels, such as the Stage Neck Inn in York, ME, will now be able to expand room inventory and restore full restaurant service. Landscapers, such as Grunder’s Landscaping of Dayton, OH, would be able to retain their thirty-five full-time, year-round American workers. Long established family-owned and operated small businesses, such as Grandy’s Farm Market of Grandy, NC, would be able to open their doors. This visa release saves and creates American jobs.
We are also pleased to be able to build upon the allocation made to the Northern Triangle countries in the FY21 spring supplemental release as well as the FY22 first half supplemental release with the allocation of 11,500 visas to Haiti and the Northern Triangle countries. At SEA, we have devoted substantial resources and remain committed to the policy objective of increasing H-2B program participation in the Northern Triangle countries. We are confident that with the processing improvements made over the summer, this allocation will prove to be a success and will provide a firm foundation on which to build upon in future releases.
This program is a win-win for the H-2B workers, for the American worker and for America’s small and seasonal businesses. American workers are the direct beneficiary of the additional visa release. H-2B workers do not take American jobs, they create American jobs. As the research overwhelming shows, every H-2B worker supports the jobs of between 3.2 and 4.6 American workers. To receive a certification from DOL, employers are required to canvass the local labor market and preferentially hire qualified American workers.
In the recent Omnibus negotiations, we were grateful to have had the opportunity to work with one of America’s largest unions on meaningful H-2B reform. The negotiated language would have potentially provided employers greater access to the H-2B program while also strengthening protections for both U.S. workers and H-2B workers. Although the language was ultimately not included, we look forward to building upon this negotiation to come to an agreement on a permanent reform of the program.
We also look forward to continuing to work with the Biden administration, and specifically the Northern Triangle Taskforce, on the expansion of the Northern and Central American Initiative.