Today the U.S. Department of Labor released a set of comprehensive regulations that will govern foreign labor certification in the H-2B guest worker program. We strongly support the new regulations and commend Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, the Department of Labor and the Obama Administration for acting to protect the interests of unemployed U.S. workers and H-2B guest workers. The rules are an important measure that will help fix a program in which instances of abuse, fraud and exploitation have been common, as revealed by government reports and investigations, as well as media coverage.
“The updated H-2B program will help put unemployed U.S. workers back to work by requiring employers to do more to recruit them before the department approves requests for foreign workers. The rules will also protect foreign H-2B workers from exploitation in the recruitment process by banning foreign labor recruiters from charging certain fees and requiring employers to pay visa and travel costs.
“The H-2B program allows employers to hire up to 66,000 non-agricultural temporary foreign workers every year for seasonal and temporary jobs, which can last up to three years. The principal industries that hire H-2B workers include landscaping, hospitality, construction, forestry, building maintenance, and seafood processing.
“In May of last year, we submitted detailed public comments to the Labor Department in support of the new rules. Hundreds of other organizations and individuals submitted public comments, and the department has carefully and meticulously reviewed them. The department’s lengthy analysis, released today in conjunction with the rule, does an excellent job of considering and addressing the concerns of employers and worker advocates. The final rule strikes a fair and appropriate balance between the concerns of all stakeholders involved in the H-2B program.”
The following are some of the most important elements of the H-2B rules:
- Employers will be required to provide U.S. workers in similar positions at least the same wages and benefits provided to H-2B workers, including transportation costs.
- An online H-2B job registry for U.S. jobseekers will be created.
- U.S. and foreign workers will be protected from retaliation for engaging in concerted activity.
- Employers will be required to guarantee workers a total number of work hours equal to at least three-fourths of the workdays in each 12-week period.
- Employers will be required to keep records documenting their recruitment of U.S. workers and to accept referrals of unemployed workers from state workforce agencies.