By Linda Cicoira
Three Virginia legislators met with Department of Labor Secretary Marty Walsh Monday to urge him to consider helping the Virginia seafood industry with labor woes, according to a joint announcement.
U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and Congressman Rob Wittman asked Walsh to consider reforming the H-2B lottery to make the process easier to use for small family businesses like seafood processors trying to ease seasonal labor needs. They say the businesses rely on the visa program to meet their seasonal needs and annually struggle to get enough visas.
“We had a productive meeting and look forward to working together to help our local businesses obtain the seasonal workers they need to operate,” the announcement stated. Processors told Warner and Kaine that they depend on the pool of labor to shuck oysters and pick crabs.
The H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Visa Program allows 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, there are more than 10 million job openings and only 5.7 million unemployed workers.
Last February, Warner and Kaine urged the Biden Administration to make additional H-2B visas available, resulting in the successful release of 35,000 additional visas in 2022 and 64,716 in 2023, the announcement stated.