New H-2B Rules Protect Guestworkers, U.S. Workers

New H-2B Rules Protect Guestworkers, U.S. Workers

NGA, workers praise Department of Labor move to end exploitation, create level playing field in U.S. guestworker program

WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 10, 2012—New H-2B guestworker visa regulations released by the Department of Labor today will protect guestworkers from exploitation while helping secure the wages and job security of U.S. workers, the National Guestworker Alliance (NGA) said.

“The Department of Labor has taken a major step in ensuring dignity at work for thousands of guestworkers—along with higher wages and working conditions for hundreds of thousands of Americans in critical industries,” said NGA Executive Director Saket Soni.

“The H2B program has been a nightmare of forced labor and debt servitude, with employers using cheap, exploitable guestworkers to undercut local workers and prevailing wages,” Soni continued. “These regulations will protect U.S. workers and wages by stopping employers from exploiting guestworkers to undercut the local labor force.”

The new regulations contain crucial protections for guestworkers and U.S. workers alike:

  • The new rules eliminate debt servitude among guestworkers by prohibiting employers and recruiters from charging recruitment fees. Currently, guestworkers enter the United States with exorbitant debt from recruitment fees and travel costs. This allows employers to use threats of firing to repress workplace complaints, knowing that workers would face deportation into crushing debt they cannot repay back home.
  • The new rules prohibit employers and recruiters from retaliating against workers who file a complaint, exercise their rights, or help other workers to do so. This ensures that when employers or recruiters do violate the program rules, U.S. workers and guestworkers have the same rights to speak up and organize to protect themselves.
  • The new rules require employers to provide at least 75% of the hours promised to guestworkers in their contracts. This ensures employers do not over-recruit guestworkers to build a captive, desperate work force that employers can use to undercut U.S. workers.
  • The new rules bar temporary staffing agencies and job contractors except in narrow circumstances. Temporary staffing agencies and the employers they provide workers to must both have a temporary or seasonal need. They must both agree to be jointly responsible and follow H-2B program rules. This helps to ensure employers do not use the guestworker program to turn permanent jobs into temporary work.

These and other rules help protect U.S. workers by leveling the playing field with guestworkers: no employer will prefer hiring guestworkers to U.S. workers because they are more exploitable.

The new rules were praised by guestworker Daniel Castellanos, whose Congressional testimony was cited by the Department of Labor as it prepared the new rules. “For too long, guestworkers have been lured to the U.S. with false promises of an American Dream, and instead faced deep debt and exploitation,” Castellanos said. “Because these rules contain real worker protections and expand our right to organize, we can win fair wages and working conditions for all workers.”

Said Miguel Angel, NGA member and former guestworker, “After we were fired for organizing, we had one purpose, to protect future workers.  These changes will help us reaching our purpose.”

The DOL’s changes to the guestworker program follow years of organizing, advocacy, and litigation by the NGA and its members.

Additional details: http://www.dol.gov/whd/immigration/H2BFinalRule/index.htm

The National Guestworker Alliance represents guestworkers across critical industries and engages in organizing, policy advocacy and litigation to win dignified conditions for all workers.

NGA ONLINE: NGA websiteTwitterFacebookYouTube

CONTACT: Stephen Boykewich, c. 718-791-9162, stephen@guestworkeralliance.org


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