Murkowski Fighting Federal Government For Fish, Tourism Jobs

Senator: Overbroad Response to Ruling Leaves Seasonal Economy “On the Ropes”

Senator Lisa Murkowski and 13 of her U.S. Senate colleagues are urging the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Labor to resume accepting and processing H-2B visas for seasonal jobs across Alaska in the fishing, resource and visitor industries.  The federal H-2B program allows businesses to hire workers from foreign countries for positions and jobs they have not succeeded at filling with local workers after a given amount of time, as well as workers crucial to Alaska’s seafood industry.

Though a U.S. District Court in Florida recently found that the Labor Department lacks the sole authority to administer the H-2B visa program, the decision did not mean that applications had to be halted immediately as has been done in response – putting jobs and economic activity this summer at risk.

In bipartisan letters (attached), Senator Murkowski and her colleagues reached out to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and wrote:

The Perez decision found that DOL lacks the sole authority to issue formal notice-and-comment rules under the Administrative Procedure Act. It did not require that DOL shut the H-2B program down. This decision along with DHS’ decision to stop the processing of its petitions has already caused economic damage and panic among businesses that depend on the H-2B program.

As you know, the H-2B program is a necessity for businesses across the country, such as seafood, hospitality, tourism, forestry and other seasonal industries. These businesses are on the ropes and are fighting every day to survive. In just this year alone, they are facing higher wages because of the prohibition on the use of prevailing wage surveys and many of them won’t be able to secure workers because the cap for the 1st half of the year was reached in January.

Secretary Johnson, our constituents need a government on their side. Every time there is a bureaucratic rule change or legal interpretation that harms their ability to operate their business, they lose another piece of their livelihood. They need a functioning H-2B program.

Though the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Labor has responded with a proposed date of April 30th to resume processing applications, Senator Murkowski remains concerned that this would come too late for Alaska’s business community to reach full staffing levels and undercut their work this summer.  She will continue to press for the government to speed up its time frame to do the least damage.