Wednesday, May 30, 2018

More Crab Pickers for Maryland

Department of Homeland Security has announced it will issue an additional 15,000 guest worker, or H-2B, visas this year above previous allocations, allowing more immigrant workers to come to the United States to fill job vacancies.

U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, who said in May that the additional issuance was imminent, called the 15,000 "a start," though he added there's still more work to do since they won't accommodate the full demand this year.

"These additional visas are significant progress while Congress seeks a long-term solution to reform the H-2B program," Harris said in a statement. "Congress failed to raise the program's visa limit this year, and we must reform the program to accommodate demand and keep America's small seasonal businesses open."

Harris added that the drop in unemployment has increased the demand for temporary seasonal workers, causing Maryland's seafood processing industry and other seasonal industries to suffer.

Federal labor officials said there was "unprecedented" demand for H-2B visas in January. They received applications for 81,000 foreign workers when only 33,000 visas nationwide were available for work from April through September.

Eastern Shore seafood processing plants are without 40 percent of their typical workforce, which picks the crabs and produces the meat used in restaurants and sold in supermarkets. They failed to get visas for their mostly Mexican workforce, including many women who have been coming north to Maryland for crab season for as long as two decades. The Trump administration for the first time awarded them this year in a lottery, instead of on a first-come, first-served basis.

Bill Sieling, executive vice president of the Chesapeake Bay Seafood Industries Association, said the announcement was good news.
Maryland's Eastern Shore once had a long tradition of black women taking seasonal work in the crab houses. Migrant labor suppressing wages and welfare supporting idleness has succeeded in making it not an economically viable option. I don't see an easy way back other than doing away with the migrant labor, and massively raising the cost of picking crabs.

Or robots. Pretty soon robots will be picking crabs as well as peoples (it's not that hard, the average Marylander does it pretty well).

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