Senate Appropriations Committee Approves Bill to Block Harmful H-2B Regulations

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On June 25, 2015, The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2016. Included in the bill are provisions that would block some of the harmful provisions in a just adopted federal rule regulating the H-2B temporary guest worker program. That rule was opposed by the American Horse Council and other industries that rely on the H-2B program.

The H-2B program is used by members of the horse industry, principally horse trainers and owners who cannot find American workers to fill semi-skilled jobs at racetracks, horse shows, fairs and in similar non-agricultural activities.

On April 29, 2015, the Department Homeland Security (DHS) and Department Labor (DOL) issued a final H-2B temporary guest worker program rule. The AHC believes this rule will make the H-2B program more costly and burdensome for employers who use the program.

The final rule made significant changes to how the H-2B program functions, including new requirements regarding corresponding American workers, reimbursement of transportation costs, seasonality, and recruitment efforts. Most of the changes to the program make it more difficult for most employers to use the program.

The complete rule can be viewed at: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/04/29/2015-09694/temporary-non-agricultural-employment-of-h-2b-aliens-in-the-united-states.

The Senate bill would make several changes to the new H-2B regulations:

  • Allow the use of private wage surveys, which are not allowed under the new final H-2B wage rule;
  • Clearly define seasonal as 10 months, as opposed to the nine months in the new final H-2B rule;
  • Prevent DOL from implementing the provisions of the final rule related to corresponding employment and the requirement employers guarantee 75% of the wages in the original work order regardless of whether the work is actually performed;
  • Prevent DOL from implementing a new and burdensome DOL enforcement system and recruitment program; and
  • Allow for the staggered crossing of H-2B employees.

These provisions in the bill are supported by the AHC and if enacted will make the H-2B program easier to use.

The bill must now be approved by the full Senate.

Visit the AHC website for more legislative news from Washington.