Warner, Kaine, & Wittman Urge Labor Secretary to Reform H-2B Visa Process to Help Virginia Seafood Processors Meet Labor Needs
Jan 31 2023
WASHINGTON— Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) and U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA-01) met with Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Marty Walsh to discuss workforce challenges for Virginia’s seafood industry. During the meeting, they urged DOL to consider reforms to the H-2B lottery that would make the process easier to use for small family businesses like seafood processors to meet their seasonal labor needs. Many of Virginia’s seafood processors, as well as other seasonal businesses, rely on additional workers from the H-2B visa program to meet their seasonal labor needs, but they annually struggle to get enough visas.
“We’ve been hearing from Virginia’s seafood processors and seasonal businesses about persistent workforce challenges, which is why we met with Labor Secretary Walsh today to share what we’ve been hearing and urge him to make common sense reforms to the H-2B visa lottery,” said Warner, Kaine, and Wittman. “We had a productive meeting and look forward to working together to help our local businesses obtain the seasonal workers they need to operate.”
Today’s meeting follows Sens. Warner and Kaine’s meeting last week with Virginia seafood processors, where they heard about persistent workforce challenges. Virginia’s seafood processors tend to be small, multi-generational family-run businesses in rural areas that don’t have access to a sufficient pool of labor, which is why they rely on H-2B workers for shucking oysters and picking crabs.
The H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Visa Program allows U.S. employers to hire seasonal, non-immigrant workers during peak seasons to supplement the existing American workforce. In order to be eligible for the program, employers are required to declare that there are not enough U.S. workers available to do the temporary and seasonal work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are over 10 million job openings but only 5.7 million unemployed workers.
Sens. Warner, Kaine, and Rep. Wittman have consistently supported expanding the H-2B visa program. In February 2022, Warner and Kaine urged the Biden Administration to make additional H-2B visas available, resulting in the successful release of additional visas in 2022 and 2023.