While H-2B worker regulations remain a work in progress, some headway was recently made by Congress.
A few key developments:
- The Omnibus Appropriations Bill was signed into law on Dec. 18, 2015, paving the way for H-2B relief to become available.
- Legislators acknowledged that the old paperwork and process guidelines do not allow for new changes that were made to the program at the end of 2015.
- Landscape contractors now have the ability to use private wage surveys.
- NALP continues to work with the Department of Homeland Security and Congress to revise the existing H-2B cap count (to make sure it properly accounts for returning workers).
- The modifications that were made to the H-2B program will last until September.
Let’s take a look at a full summary of H-2B relief changes.
Managing existing program modifications
First, during the winter holidays, the National Association of Landscape Professional’s policy team began working with the Department of Labor (DOL), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its Congressional-issue champions to seek guidance on how the agencies will implement the new provisions. In short, the old paperwork and process guidelines do not allow for the new changes that were made at the end of 2015, complicating an already confusing and burdensome application process. Here are the areas on which to focus:
- It is still taking 60 or more days to receive an OES wage determination. While we now have the ability to use private wage surveys, there are still questions about how timely they will be processed.
- Associations like NALP are working with DHS and through Congress to revise the existing H-2B cap count to make sure it properly accounts for returning workers.
Advocating for longer-term solutions to H-2B issues
The modifications that were made to the H-2B program will last until September. NALP and other organizations are continuing to push for permanent legislative changes as the long-term objective or another year of relief through the appropriations process if need be. Toward these objectives:
- NALP and other industry groups have invested in a public affairs firm to help with legislative positioning of the H-2B issue. They will counter public relations attacks by unions and other H-2B foes who threaten to overturn wins in this year’s legislative process. They plan to put a face on the real need for guest workers and explain the important role they offer in supporting U.S. businesses.
- The groups are also working to secure permanent fixes to the program by encouraging legislation, S. 2225 “Save Our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act of 2015” and HR 3918 “Strengthen Employment and Seasonal Opportunities Now (SEASON) Act.”
- DOL stopped processing applications for a short period of time after the recent legislation was passed but then started issuing final labor certifications again. They just issued new forms that comply with the new limitations in the law.