In January, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced that a court decision had forced it to recalculate wage rates for H-2B visa guest workers (seasonal, non-agricultural) to better align wages with “marketplace realities.” The new wage rates were set to go into effect on January 1, 2012, but were recently moved up to October 1, 2011, causing apoplexy among many H-2B employers, particularly in the seafood industry where wages may rise by as much as 30 percent. “Department [of Labor] spokesman Joshua Lamont said the wage increase will eliminate what the court concluded was unfair treatment of H2-B workers…. The seafood industry countered that the wage increase swings the balance of out whack.”
Really, can you blame the seafood industry? They were led by experience to believe that the point of the H-2B visa program was to drive down the prevailing wage rate. Now they are going to have to start paying their employees closer to the fair market value of their work. If they’re not careful they just might start attracting more American workers. Hoping to fend off such a dreaded result, Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) wrote to DOL Secretary Hilda Solis “arguing the wage increase comes as unemployment rates remain above average and as the nation struggles to recover from the recession.” Mr. Harris seems to think the way to put Americans back to work is to bring in foreign guest workers and pay them a pittance.