Last week, a group of business owners brought a federal lawsuit in Louisiana seeking a halt to a new guest worker regulation that requires increased pay for foreign workers.
The H-2B nonimmigrant visa program permits employers to hire foreign workers to come to the United States to perform temporary nonagricultural services on a one-time, seasonal, peak-load, or intermittent basis. Colorado employers are among the most extensive users of the H-2B program.
Prior to employing H-2B workers, employers must satisfy the Department of Labor (DOL) that they are unable to find qualified U.S. workers willing to do the job. They must also agree to pay at least the prevailing wage for the position. In August 2010, a federal judge ordered the DOL to revise its methodology for calculating prevailing wages. The result is a regulation that substantially increases required pay for most jobs.
For example, a hotel housekeeper working in Vail on an H-2B visa would have earned at least $8.90 per hour a year ago. The regulations now mandate that this worker earns a minimum of $12.25 per hour, a 38 percent increase.
Business owners want the DOL to use its old method for calculating wages, asserting that the new rule will make it impossible to do business.
“This is the latest in a trend of federal government actions that make employing guest workers difficult,” says Ryan Adair, MSEC Manager of Immigration Services.
A second 77-page proposed H-2B rule was issued in March and remains pending. “As tough as the wage rule is,” notes Adair, “when the additional proposed changes become final, they will virtually gut the H-2B program.”