Labor Department Accused Of Blocking Access To Guest Workers

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Rachel Stoltzfoos Staff Reporter
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Businesses that use seasonal guest workers frustrated with delays in approval of this year’s applications are accusing the Labor Department of intentionally stalling the contested visa program.

The Labor Department announced an emergency plan Friday to deal with a backlog in the H-2b visa program, after businesses and the lawmakers who represent them loudly protested that the approval delay is costing them loads of money, reported The Wall Street Journal.

Businesses who use the program to hire low-skilled foreign workers for temporary non-farm jobs in restaurants, hotels, resorts and even trucking companies, saying they can’t find American workers willing to do the jobs. But the program’s critics, including unions, say businesses just aren’t willing to pay American workers higher wages, and intentionally shut them out of the hiring process.

In response to these criticisms, the Labor Department recently implemented new regulations to force businesses to make more of an effort to hire American workers, and to force them to pay guest workers the prevailing wage in that industry. And some businesses are blaming the delay in processing on the Labor Department’s desire to please unions who are typically Democratic allies and oppose the program altogether.

Congress recently passed a law that could effectively triple the number of H-2b workers businesses can access each year, which appears to have greatly increased the number of applications. The Labor Department attributed what it called “significant” processing delays on technical problems and more than double the typical number of applications.

The delays “impair the ability of employers to hire foreign workers when needed,” the Labor Department conceded Friday, according to TheWSJ. One amusement-ride company said it was unable to get the 75 workers it needed for a fair in Alabama this month, so it had to cancel the fair and take as much as a $50,000 loss in revenue.

“If employers were offering more-attractive wages, they would be able to find American workers,” an AFL-CIO legislative representative told TheWSJ, regarding the complaints.

Processing delays aside, businesses now have access to as many as three times the current annual cap of 66,000 temporary foreign workers, who fill jobs in occupations including cooking, working on cruise ships, hospitality, construction and maintenance for as little as three months and as many as three years on the visas.

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