Labor Dept. delays wage hike for foreign workers
A day after Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski advanced a proposal to delay a new rule that would increase wages for temporary foreign workers in Maryland’s crab processing plants, the U.S. Department of Labor agreed to postpone implementing the rule voluntarily.
The higher wages for the workers, which were set to go into effect Oct. 1, will be delayed 60 days, according to the Maryland Democrat. On Wednesday, Mikulski attached a one-year delay in an amendment to a spending bill that was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“Sixty days will allow the senator and her coalition to look for some sort of fix. It’ll get the crab folks through the season,” said Jack Brooks, co-owner of J.M. Clayton Seafood Co. in Cambridge. “But, we’ve still got some work to do.”
The U.S. permits 66,000 foreigners to come to the country each year under what is known as the H-2B visa program. The temporary workers are hired for seasonal jobs such as crab picking, oyster shucking or landscaping and return home once the season is over.
Labor Department officials proposed higher wages for H-2B workers in January after a federal court struck down guidelines for the program crafted by the Bush administration. Under the rule, workers in Maryland who now make $7.25 an hour would receive $9.24, according to industry
Despite the 60-day cushion, Mikulski said she will continue to push for a year-long delay of the rule’s implementation.
“We got a pause, but I’m going to keep fighting for a long-term solution that is fair for workers and viable for preserving jobs in Maryland’s seafood industry,” she said in a statement. “These are jobs that once they are lost, they will never come back. I will not stop fighting until we have a sensible approach to H-2B wages.”