Texas AFL-CIO union leader, Michael Cunningham, challenged H-2B visa applications, saying that there are Americans who can fill these positions. H-2B visas are temporary work permits given to low-skilled foreign workers to fill seasonal positions. They're typically used by landscapers, hoteliers, and resort areas.
In 2006, Congress required companies seeking foreign workers to inform local labor unions. Many unions were flooded with certified letters about the job opportunities being offered to foreign workers. Some companies were looking for a few temporary construction workers while others wanted to hire 100 or more foreign workers, whose wages varied from $3-$10 less per hour than what American construction workers were making.
The companies claimed that they needed the visas to meet the labor needs for jobs that Americans didn’t want to do. Yet, Cunningham claims that most of the time American workers often do not know about these employment opportunities.
The federal government offers 33,000 H-2B visas twice a year, but a surge of U.S. applicants or other disruptions can force a company’s visa application to the back of the line.
Cunningham is encouraging local union leaders to prove there are enough U.S. workers to fill the job positions. If a company is looking for 100 H-2B visas for foreign welders the local union members will flood the company’s fax machines with resumes from American workers.
One immigration lawyer, Jacob Monty, says a companies’ need for foreign workers is like “getting them on crack”. This addiction can be interrupted when unions challenge visa applications forcing many to the back of the line.
Jordan "Gig" Ritenour, Director of marketing for the international roofers' union and business manager in Texas said, "we were all so amazed that so many contractors are applying for foreign workers when we have thousands of roofers looking for work all the time." He noted that one foreign worker request was looking for a roofer for $8 an hour in comparison to a union member who is paid $22.84 an hour and a non-union member who is paid about $14 an hour.
"The reason employers want to use H-2B workers is because they can get a workforce that they can pay less and who will gladly work under adverse working conditions that are often better than what they can get at home," says Bill Beardall, Director of the Equal Justice Center, which represents workers on H-2B visas.
Last week Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) introduced legislation in both the House and the Senate that would increase the number of H-2B visas issued each year.
Read more on this story at the Houston Chronicle.
Updated: Mon, Jul 24th 2017 @ 3:28pm EDT