Senate Democrats Block Funding for Guest Worker Protection Rule
On June 14, five Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee joined 14 Republicans to help pass an amendment sponsored by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) that would block funding for the enforcement of a new H-2B guest workers protection rule issued by the Obama administration. Approximately 115,000 guest workers are working in the United States on H-2B guest worker visas. The program allows companies to bring in workers into the United States to work when they claim that they cannot find American workers to do the job.
However, workers’ rights advocates claim the program is often abused by companies to hire workers in industries like construction. Currently, 14.2% of construction workers are unemployed. A recent Department of Labor internal audit found that nearly half of all companies using H-2B guest workers are not in compliance with federal laws about their usage.
Labor advocates claim that the H-2B visas programs are often used to pay workers lower wages. One study by the Econoic Policy Institute found that workers on H-2B visa in the seafood industry make on average $10,000 a year less than American workers in the seafood industry.
What's more, H-2B workers employed in low-wage industries are often forced to work in illegal and unsafe conditions because workers are afraid to speak up out of fear of being deported. Recently, it was discovered that a Wal-Mart supplier in Louisiana was forcing H-2B guest workers in the seafood industry to work up to 24 hours a day.