President Trump’s tightened labor market is giving Maryland’s seafood industry reason to complain, mainly because they want to import more foreign workers to do U.S. blue-collar jobs.
For weeks, media outlets printed warnings from Maryland’s seafood companies of an impending “labor shortage” with the latest claims coming from the Wall Street Journal where businesses say they want more foreign workers to come to the U.S. through the H-2B visa program.
The complaints center around Maryland’s seafood industry and specifically crab-picking jobs. For decades, companies have imported mostly Mexican women to do the grueling crab-picking work, housing them in remote locations where they have little interaction outside of their job.
This year, seafood companies are complaining that they need more foreign workers. The Wall Street Journal reports:
The Chesapeake Bay Seafood Industries Association, which represents the roughly 20 licensed processors in Maryland, says this year’s randomized allocation has left the state’s industry short about 200 workers, almost half the seasonal workforce, typically all from Mexico.
Relief may be on the way. DHS is expected to soon issue an additional 15,000 H-2B visas. But Maryland’s desperate crab processors say even if they get visas, it will be weeks before any Mexican workers can make what for some is a 2,500-mile trek north, so the unlucky firms will remain sidelined as crab season kicks into high gear.
The unexpected worker shortage for some businesses has upended the economy on Hoopers Island. Processors that don’t have pickers aren’t buying crabs. Those crabbers aren’t buying bait fish from local fishermen. The combination has slashed sales at the Hoopers Island General Store to its lowest level in six years, said owner Katie Doll.
As Breitbart News reported, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is expected to give big businesses more foreign workers through the H-2B visa program, even though the Maryland seafood industry has already been able to import 300 foreign workers this year.
Now, there are expected to be more than 80,000 H-2B foreign workers that big business will be allowed to import to do blue-collar jobs like the crab-picking work.
The pleading for more workers by the seafood industry often drowns out research and data that reveals how the H-2B visa program drives down the wages of Americans and turns foreign workers into indentured servants.
Research conducted by the American University’s Washington College of Law found that the crab-pickers’ isolation and “limited contact” with others “breeds reliance on employers, who already wield significant power over the women.”
In one case, a Mexican H-2B worker said her employer put her and seven other women in a trailer with a tiny kitchen and bathroom. Meanwhile, the foreign workers’ salaries rely on the amount of crab meat they pick for the day. Sometimes, these workers are only given two days a week to work. more here