How DOL’s H-2B Rules Should Change

“When we started our organizing in labor camps across the South, we dreamed of dignity and respect at work. We urge all those on the side of dignity to say, loudly, that these new rules are right, so we can make that dream real.”
- Daniel Castellanos, NGA founding member

On March 17, 2011, NGA won a major victory and a vindication of five years of organizing, advocacy, and litigation as the Department of Labor proposed new regulations for the H-2B non-agricultural visa program. We laud these proposed regulations—now we have to ensure the Department of Labor adopts them as proposed. These new regulations, if adopted, will help prevent employers from manipulating the H-2B program to engage in labor trafficking and debt servitude of guestworkers.

NGA has submitted the attached comments emphasizing priority areas for change in the H-2B program including:

  • Prohibiting cost-shifting of travel, visa, and recruitment costs from employers to H-2B guestworkers resulting in debt servitude;
  • Constraining the H-2B program to participation by employers with temporary jobs where no unemployed U.S. worker is available;
  • Prohibiting participation of job contractors in the H-2B program;
  • Ensuring jobs within the H-2B program afford fair and dignified work for U.S. workers and guestworkers including the amount of work promised in the contract;
  • Protecting U.S. workers and guestworkers in sectors using the H-2B program from retaliation and protecting the right to organize;
  • Ensuring information about the H-2B program and its participating employers is publicly accessible in a timely way;
  • Ensuring employers who violate the H-2B program’s rules are debarred;
  • Ensuring U.S. workers and H-2B guestworkers in sectors using the program are equally protected during times of natural disaster and emergency.

Any program which ties a worker’s visa to his employer risks manipulation and coercive employment, especially in the current context where enforcement of immigration related rules is prioritized and resourced at a significantly higher level than the enforcement of worker protection rules. Too often employers shopping for the most exploitable workforce manipulate the program to result in immigration related abuse of the legal process and involuntary servitude within the H-2B guestworker program.

The imbalance of enforcement resources between DHS and DOL notwithstanding, these proposed rules along with the additional amendments proposed herein will lift the standards and support the right to organize for U.S. workers and H-2B guestworkers in the same industries and thereby lift the floor for all workers.

Download full comments here (PDF).

Please follow these simple instructions for filing comments online:

The proposed regulations are available at: http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=ETA-2011-0001-0001

Comments can be submitted online at the below link: http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=ETA-2011-0001-0001

The National Guestworker Alliance is anchored by the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice. Please send copies of comments to guestworkers@nowrcj.org and contact Jacob Horwitz, Lead Organizer, National Guestworker Alliance, with any questions: (504) 452-9159, jhorwitz@nowcrj.org


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