Federal court delays H-2B labor wage increase

The following is a Press Release from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry:

Judge M. Casey Rogers' decision blocking a radical wage increase for H-2B labor should be allowed to stand.

Strain said Rogers' ruling delayed a recent decree by the U.S. Department of Labor mandating an across the board wage increase for all H-2B guest workers.

An LSU AgCenter economic impact study predicted that the increase in Louisiana could have ranged from 32 to 100 percent, Strain said.

The Florida court injunction delays implementation of the H-2B Program and Final Wage Rule for 60 days.

"If these wage increases are allowed to stand it will probably put Louisiana's last few remaining crawfish tail meat processors out of business," Strain said. "And that's a shame because Louisiana created the crawfish business.

"These jobs are seasonal. Americans workers aren't willing to take a seasonal job peeling crawfish or shrimp or picking crab meat for four or five months. Consequently, employers cannot fill vacancies for temporary jobs in their peeling plants, sugar mills, forests and packing factories so they have to advertise for guest workers who are willing to do those jobs."

The H-2B Visa Program is a default United States worker program that permits American employers to fill seasonal job vacancies with H-2B foreign visa workers so businesses can avoid closures due to lack of workers.

Louisiana shrimp, crab and other food service industries as well as candy manufacturers, sugarcane, forestry, equine, construction and hotel businesses employ seasonal workers through the H-2B program. These seasonal employees are typically paid the prevailing wage for the type of job performed in the geographical area in which they are hired.

"I don't know any business that could absorb a 32 percent wage increase and stay solvent," Strain said. "If we cannot find a solution that is fair to employers who use the H-2B Visa Program, many agricultural industries will be adversely affected.

"This injunction is a step in the right direction and I applaud the decision of Judge Rogers who clearly recognized the economic harm to small business caused by the Department of Labor's H-2B rules.

"However, I know employers need more than a 60 day reprieve from the detrimental effects of these H-2B rules and the H-2B changes should be permanently withdrawn or legislatively removed by Congress."

Strain has called for reform of the H-2B program that will streamline the costly process for employers to hire guest workers.