During a Wednesday hearing about the H-2B visa policy, AH&LA member Sarah Diment, owner of The Beachmere Inn in Ogunquit, Maine, testified about the importance of seasonal workers and their value to small tourism and tourism-related business, including hotels and resorts. The hearing was called by the House of Representatives Small Business Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax, and Capital Access to discuss the H-2B visa program.
Created in 1990, the H-2B visa program of the Immigration and Nationality Act allows a maximum of 66,000 short-term international workers to fill temporary jobs when no other workers can be found. An employer’s participation in the program is contingent on approval by four government agencies, and they must also prove that the business has a need for temporary workers, extensive recruitment for workers was unsuccessful, and the position offers no less than the federal prevailing wage.
Diment has utilized the H-2B program at the Beachmere Inn and was invited by the subcommittee to testify on behalf of the lodging industry. The hearing was convened by Subcommittee Chairman Tom Rice (R-SC).
“A strong temporary seasonal worker program is vital to the continued strength of hotels, inns, and resorts across the country, many of which generate much of their annual revenue during peak tourist seasons,” said Katherine Lugar, AH&LA president and CEO. “We are grateful to Chairman Rice for calling this hearing and providing the opportunity to explain to the subcommittee the importance of this program and why its continuation is crucial to our members’ economic viability.”
In January 2011, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued a rule creating a new prevailing wage methodology for H-2B workers that would have artificially inflated labor costs. Because the rule would harm seasonal businesses throughout the country and put the jobs of full-time workers in jeopardy, Congress blocked the rule from going into effect. In May 2013, DOL and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reissued essentially the same rule despite the resulting economic harm, and the action taken by Congress against the previous rule. Although DOL and DHS deemed that the rule went into effect upon publication, comments are being accepted until June 10.