GCSAA Weighs In At June 8 H-2B Public Hearing

By Bob Helland | June 14, 2016

On June 8, 2016, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest held a hearing entitled "The H-2B Temporary Foreign Worker Program: Examining the Effects on Americans' Job Opportunities and Wages". GCSAA joined its allies in the H-2B Workforce Coalition in making sure that golf's voice was heard by senators on the subcommittee. A number of GCSAA members submitted written testimony to the committee in advance of the hearing and Bob Helland, GCSAA director of congressional and federal affairs, was in attendance.

The message to the subcommittee was clear: H-2B workers support American jobs. That message was needed to counter the statements made by many of the witnesses at the hearing. The witnesses, from labor, think tanks and academia, spoke of specific instances of fraud and abuse in the administration of the H-2B program. They also voiced concerns, picked up by some of the Senators, that the program was hurting wages and taking jobs away from American workers.

These comments in opposition to the program were countered by Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who spoke favorably about the H-2B program and how it helped fill seasonal positions in their respective states that would otherwise have gone empty.

Also discussed at the hearing was the "returning worker exemptio" to the H-2B program, included in last year's FY2016 Omnibus bill, that exempts returning workers from the 66,000 annual cap. The GCSAA is fighting to ensure that this exemption remains intact when Congressional appropriators take up and pass a spending bill for the next fiscal year.

Seasonal businesses rely on the H-2B program to fill temporary vacancies in golf, seafood harvesting and processing, horse training, hospitality and amusement parks, forestry, landscaping, circuses, carnivals, food concessionaires, construction, swimming pool maintenance, stone quarries and other industries.

The seasonal nature of these businesses and industries means that they routinely face shortages of local workers during their peak work periods. By filling temporary jobs, H-2B workers not only keep these businesses open, they contribute to the creation of additional, year-round jobs for American workers.

Employers turn to the H-2B program as a last resort after an extensive recruitment effort to secure local workers that is required by the program. Despite the extensive costs and time associated with gaining approval from four government agencies, employers use the H-2B program because they are committed maintaining a legal workforce.

Without access to this vital H-2B program, seasonal businesses are left without any legal mechanism to hire workers when their efforts to recruit American workers have been exhausted.