Mikulski is a long-time champion of the H-2B visa program, which is a one-two punch for Maryland, keeping small and seasonal businesses open while supporting the jobs of Marylanders who rely on them
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today in a letter to Secretary of Labor (DOL) Tom Perez and Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) Jeh Johnson called on the agencies to issue a rule for seafood businesses relying on seasonal workers here on H-2B visas that allows those businesses to pay their workers an appropriate local wage, rather than at a level mandated by broad categories that do not accurately reflect the wages of crab pickers in Maryland. Artificial wage calculations mandated at a federal level that are not tailored to the actual work being done in local job markets could have a disastrous impact on Maryland’s seafood industry and Eastern Shore jobs. Seasonal workers returning to the United States under H-2B visas are critical to ensuring Maryland’s seafood businesses have the labor force they need during peak harvest season. For every one H-2B visa granted, four American jobs are created.
“Prevailing Wage Surveys are a critical tool for businesses that are forced to rely on the H-2B program due to a routine shortage of available workers, yet lack an occupational classification specifically related to them,” Senator Mikulski wrote. “The Maryland seafood industry is a clear example of this problem where the job category of “seafood processor/picker” is considered under much broader categories that do not accurately reflect the wages of crab pickers in Maryland. The H-2B program is critical for small, seasonal businesses that rely on its continued availability and reliability to function. These businesses need a rule that allows them to function.”
Following the U.S. District Court of Florida’s Perez v Perez decision, DOL and DHS are required to issue a joint Interim Final Rule by April 30 to move ahead with the H-2B visa seasonal worker program. Senator Mikulski has asked that the rule mandate businesses pay their seasonal workforce here on H-2B visas at levels based on the state-approved Prevailing Wage Survey. The Prevailing Wage Survey calculates the worth of the actual work being done to local businesses. Paying a wage established through broad categories such as “seafood processor/picker” does not accurately reflect the wages of crab pickers in Maryland. These artificial wage calculations that are not tailored to the actual work being done have a disastrous impact on the industry and the fragile economies it supports.