Coalition Letter to the White House on H-2B Visas

Friday, May 15, 2020 - 3:30pm

May 15, 2020

The Honorable Donald J. Trump

President

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Trump:

As the Administration focuses on economic recovery and addressing the temporary unemployment that has resulted from the coronavirus pandemic, we would like to assure you that seasonal businesses also look forward to our role in our country's economic recovery. While seasonal businesses continue to do all that they can to recruit and retain American workers, it is important to maintain the safety valve that the H-2B program provides when American workers are not available for temporary seasonal positions.

Per your recently issued Presidential Proclamation preventing the entry of certain immigrants to the U.S., the Secretaries of Labor and Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, are charged with reviewing nonimmigrant visas programs and recommending measures to stimulate the United States economy and ensure the prioritization, hiring, and employment of United States workers. We completely agree that able and willing Americans should be provided preference and priority for job openings before H-2B workers are considered, which is the structure already required by the rigorous visa program regulations. Under the Department of Labor's temporary labor certification process, employers resorting to H-2B workers are required to publicize and pay a prevailing wage established by DOL, which is well above the federal minimum wage, and must hire any qualified American applicants. This program serves as a critical safety valve for companies to address seasonal labor needs when there are not a sufficient numbers of available American workers to meet the demand for these short-term jobs. The potential for significant disruption to the programs operation will not only harm many American businesses; it will also jeopardize the continued employment of full time U.S. workers in seasonal sectors and broader economic recovery efforts across the country.

The business community shares your hope for a speedy economic recovery as states begin easing stay at home orders. It is important that the H-2B program continue to be available in the event that we see a rapid drop in unemployment. It is also important to note that while seasonal employers are actively recruiting U.S. workers, many unemployed American workers are not currently seeking other employment because they expect their former jobs to be available as soon as state restrictions are lifted. According to a recent nationwide Washington Post-Ipsos poll, nearly 80% of laid-off workers expect to be rehired by their previous employer once state stay-at-home orders are lifted.1 In addition, a General Accountability Office report released just last month analyzed DHS and DOL data and concluded that counties with H-2B employers generally had lower unemployment rates and higher average weekly wages than counties that do not have any H-2B employers. Further, the H-2B program protects the jobs of the full-time, year-round American workers, who rely on the H-2B workers to sustain their jobs. Every H-2B worker supports 4.64 American jobs.

Seasonal businesses are committed to protecting the health of their entire workforce and the American public. Those essential businesses that are operating today take their obligations to provide a safe work environment for their employees very seriously. As such, these open businesses have implemented social distancing policies and many other necessary health protections to ensure that their businesses can operate without health-related disruptions. H-2B employers that are currently closed plan to implement these necessary safety precautions as part of a resumption of their operations.

These companies also take seriously their role in our nation's economic recovery. We can best contribute to the economy by employing a full workforce, including our American workers and supplemental H-2B workers who support those American jobs. H-2B employers, many of which are small businesses, are committed to hiring any willing and able American workers before turning to H-2B workers. The businesses that currently need workers have stepped up their recruitment of American workers, but due to factors such as the seasonality of the work, the nature of the work, and the location of the job, there are many instances where supplemental H-2B workers are still needed. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to allow for the continued, uninterrupted operation of the H-2B program.

Thank you for your attention to this issue and for your continued work to protect the health and economic well being of Americans.