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Surveys help establish wage rates for foreign guest workers

By: Benedict C. Posadas, Ph.D. / Published: May 12,  2016

Seafood processing is a major economic activity in the states of Mississippi and Alabama. Seafood processing created total economic impacts amounting to $228 million in sales and provided 3,300 jobs to workers in the two states in 2012. The availability of workers is very crucial in sustaining their processing operations year-round.

The H-2B non-agricultural temporary worker program allows U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary non-agricultural jobs. As stated in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, “Congress has set the H-2B cap at 66,000 per fiscal year, with 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the first half of the fiscal year (October 1 - March 31) and 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the second half of the fiscal year (April 1 - September 30).”  

These wage surveys were conducted to provide information needed by the U.S. Department of Labor to establish base wage rates for foreign guest workers working in Alabama and Mississippi oyster processing plants and Mississippi shrimp processing plants under the H-2B visa program. The purpose of the surveys was to determine the prevailing wage rates paid to workers doing similar tasks in an oyster or shrimp processing plant. The results of these surveys facilitated the H-2B application process and assist the workforce development of our important seafood industry.  

The first wage survey of all oyster shuckers/packers licensed to operate in Alabama was conducted in September to October 2015. There were 21 oyster shuckers/packers registered in the state of Alabama, as reported in the most recent Interstate Certified Shellfish Shippers List posted at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website.

The second wage survey of all oyster shuckers/packers licensed to operate in Mississippi were conducted in January to February 2016. There were five oyster shuckers/packers licensed in Mississippi as listed in the most recent Active Processing Permits in the State of Mississippi List prepared by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, Seafood Technology Bureau.

The third wage survey was conducted among all licensed Mississippi shrimp processing plants in January to February 2016. There were 12 shrimp processors licensed in Mississippi as listed in the most recent Active Processing Permits in the State of Mississippi List prepared by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, Seafood Technology Bureau.

The one-page summaries of the wage surveys were sent to the participating seafood processors. The results of these surveys serve as benchmarks in determining the wage rates for the H-2B workers being applied for by the seafood processors in Mississippi and Alabama. 

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