SEA Iowa tour

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We have previously mentioned that Senator Grassley (R-IA), given his position as the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, will play an outsized role in determining the Senate’s version of H-2B cap relief. The Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over the H-2B program.

There are only about 30 H-2B employers in Iowa, meaning it is all the more important that each and every one of them informs their Members of Congress of the importance of the H-2B program to the their businesses and U.S. workforces. The unemployment rate in Iowa is 2.6%. This is the second lowest state unemployment rate in the nation!

We have had difficulty in getting the Iowa employers engaged in our political advocacy efforts. We therefore took it upon ourselves to go to Iowa to meet with (almost) every Iowa H-2B employer.

SEA board member Veronica Birkenstock and I spent three days in Iowa beating the pavement with the goal of getting every Iowa H-2B employer engaged in our political advocacy efforts.

IA trip route. Each pin represents an H-2B employer.

Tuesday, August 21st

After landing we headed to Altoona to meet with Jon Moss, the Executive Director of the Iowa Quarter Horse Racing Association.

Several horse trainers in Iowa use the H-2B program. Jon explained that the IA horse racing industry is an $120 million industry. The H-2B workers serve as grooms for the racing horses. Each groom supports 5-6 horses. In an ideal world each groom would support 3 horses but the labor shortage means that every stable-hand is having to support 5-6 horses. This means that the H-2B workers in the IA horse racing industry support over $12 million in net output!

We then headed north to stop in at All Star Concrete.

 Wednesday, August 22nd

On Wednesday we headed to the Cedar Rapids area. First we met with Jack Blong of Suburban Landscape and Brian Stevens of Stevens Erosion Control. Both companies were capped out this year and are facing enormous difficulties as a result.

We then headed north. We first stopped in at Greg’s Lawn Service. Thank you Donna Scharf, for accommodating us and for your commitment to fighting the good fight. Donna’s husband, Greg Scharf, joined us at our fly-in last week and met with Senator Grassley’s office to share his story. 

We then met with Delaney Concrete and Culver’s Garden Center and Greenhouse.

We then hit the road for the three and a half hour drive to Fort Dodge, IA.

Thursday, August 23rd

On Thursday we visited King Construction, Alewelt Services, and Mulford Concrete.

Mulford Concrete does a lot of work at ethanol plants. Alewelt Services is another large concrete company. They use H-2B for their truck drivers. They are offering their truck drivers a $10,000 sign on bonus but still can’t find enough takers! This is how tight the labor market is.

We concluded the trip by stopping by the Bernard Law Firm. Aaron Benard does a majority of the paperwork for Iowa H-2B users. If you are a client of Bernard Law Firm, tell Aaron we need his help with our political advocacy efforts. He has been unresponsive to date.

This was definitely a worthwhile trip. For many of the companies, it took knocking on their doors to get their attention, explain who we are, and why their political advocacy efforts are so needed and important. Many of them would never have responded to us, no matter how many phone calls, direct mail letters, or emails we sent.

I am hopeful that each employer will now be engaged in petitioning their Members of Congress going forward and that a few of them will attend our fly-in later this fall.


Labor shortage affecting iconic Iowa State Fair

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The Iowa State Fair officially kicked-off last Thursday. With over 1 million people attending the fair each year, it is one of the most iconic and popular state fairs in the country.

It is home to the famous Butter Cow. It has also inspired one novel, three motion pictures, and a Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical.

But do you know that the future of the Iowa State Fair could be dramatically different if the government fails to address the chronic labor shortage issues for seasonal businesses?

Close to two dozen vendors at the Iowa State Fair use the H-2B program. These employers collectively bring in over 300 H-2B workers each year. They would not be in business without the H-2B program and without the H-2B workers. The Iowa State Fair would see a reduction in amusement rides and concession stands and with that, a similar reduction in visitors and participants. The Fair could lose part of what, until now, has made it one of the most famous in the country.

The H-2B program allows seasonal businesses to supplement their U.S. workforces with foreign workers for a maximum of nine months per year only if they have proven, as certified by the US Department of Labor, that there are no willing and qualified US workers for those positions.

The carnival business is a tough business. It is very difficult to recruit an American worker if you tell them they are going to be on the road living out of a motel room for eight months AND they are going to be laid off after eight months. Would you find this offer appealing?

This is why amusement ride and concession stand operators turn to the temporary, non-immigrant H-2B guest-worker program to ensure the continued success, public attendance, and prominence.
Standing in the way of the Iowa State Fair is an arbitrary cap on the H-2B program that was set in 1990 and has not been altered since. Many of the Fair’s employers are now subject to a government lottery that determines who gets their workers and stays in business and who gets denied their workers and goes out of business.

How is this just?

H-2B employers are hopeful that the cap will be significantly increased in the final government 2019 funding bill. Iowa’s own Senator, Chuck Grassley, will play an outsized role as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, in determining the fate of these employers. We encourage all Iowa H-2B employers and fans of the Iowa State Fair to encourage Senator Grassley to support the inclusion of language in the final 2019 government funding bill that significantly increases the H-2B cap and protects current users of program.

SEA’s Summer Crab Event a Big Success

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On July 11th SEA hosted a Summer Crab Event outside the Capitol Hill Club. It was a tremendous success as staffers from over 125 offices stopped by the event to enjoy delicious crab cakes courtesy of Lindy’s Seafood. We were able to educate them on the importance of the H-2B program and the adverse economic impact the H-2B cap is having on seasonal businesses. In addition the event was covered by Roll Call, PBS NewsHour, and Politico.

SEA Annual Meeting

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The Seasonal Employment Alliance will be hosting our inaugural Annual Meeting June 6th and 7th in Chicago, IL. The meeting will be taking place at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare Hotel and Conference Center. The meeting presents an excellent opportunity to engage with other active H-2B program participants and give your input into our short-term and long-term strategies.

The meeting is going to be jammed packed with interesting, informative and entertaining talks, presentations, discussions and panels. In addition to our meeting we have also set up a fun and casual fundraising event at Top Golf the night of the 6th. The cost of the ticket includes two hours of play and dinner (there will be a cash bar available) and all proceeds will go to the SEA general fund.

Click here to register.

Below you will find the full address of the event and the schedule for the meeting.

SEA Annual Meeting Schedule
June 5-7, Rosemont, IL
Hyatt Regency O’Hare
9300 W Bryn Mawr Ave
Rosemont, IL 60018

Tuesday June 5th

9 AM-12 PM Department of Labor Stakeholder Meeting
11 West Quincy Court, Room 475, Chicago, IL
7:05 PM- Chicago Cubs v Philadelphia Phillies (optional)

Wednesday June 6th

8 AM – 4:30 PM General Membership arrival. Hotel check in and meeting registration
9:30 AM – 12 PM- SEA Member Agents and Attorneys Meeting
1:00 PM- 1:30 PM: Overview of SEA Committees
1:30 PM- 3:30 PM: Government Affairs Committee Meeting, Zone and State Committee meetings
6 PM- 8:30 PM: Top Golf fundraiser/social event

Thursday June 7th (schedule subject to change)

7:45 AM- 8:30 AM Buffet Breakfast
8:30 AM to 9:30 AM: Introduction and overview of the history of SEA, where we currently stand, future plans
9:30 AM to 10:30 AM: Engaging the White House: Political update and political advocacy strategy
10:30 AM- 10:45 AM Break
10:45 AM- 12 PM: Panel discussion regarding short and long-term H-2B political advocacy strategy
12 PM- 12:45 PM: Lunch
12:45 PM- 1:15 PM: Explaining the disaster of 2018 and the likely effect it is going to have on 2019 applications
1:15 PM- 2:15 PM: Engaging the media: an interactive role play presentation
2:15 PM- 2:30 PM: Break
2:30 PM- 3:15 PM: Changing the Public Perception of the H-2B Program: a Presentation on SEA’s Communication Strategy
3:15 PM -4 PM: Wrap up discussion

Seasonal Employment Alliance

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The Seasonal Employment Alliance is a not-for-profit association dedicated to improving the dependability, efficiency and long-term viability of a seasonal, non-immigrant guest worker program for non-agricultural employers. The need for reliable, seasonal labor sources for law-abiding companies is paramount. This growth in the economy, increased immigration enforcement and border interdiction efforts, and prospect of mandatory e-Verify has put increased pressure on the H-2B visa program.

Guided by its seven-person Board of Directors, including leading H-2B agents, experts, and operating employers, SEA will enhance, strengthen and focus the H-2B communities’ efforts to inform and aid Congress in improving the dependability and efficiency of the H-2B seasonal guest-worker program.