BERLIN — The U.S. Senate this week voted to delay new Department of Labor requirements that would raise the hourly wages of temporary foreign workers with H-2B visas, a measure many fear would threaten Maryland’s seafood industry.
U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski was successful in amending the 2012 Labor, Health and Human Services spending bill. The new wage regulations were originally set to go into effect on Oct. 1, 2011. However, Mikulski was successful in getting the effective date moved back to Oct. 1, 2012.
Currently, H-2B employers pay the prevailing wage for that type of work so workers with comparable tasks or skills are paid in the same category. The new regulations would have averaged the pay of different kinds of jobs regardless of the tasks, skills or industry involved and were drafted without regard for or consultation with the seafood industry.
“The people who work in the seafood industry are in danger of becoming an endangered species themselves,” said Mikulski. “Their livelihoods, which depend on Mother Nature and require temporary and seasonal workers, are fraught with uncertainty. And right now the seafood industry is in peril because of back-to-back federal regulations and competition from cheap imported crab meat. I’m for everyone making an honest living, but at the same time to change the rules on the business community in the middle of the tide is inappropriate.”