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H-2B Temporary Guest Worker Labor Issue is an Industry Problem
H-2B visa workers are needed for the fair industry to survive
Friday, February 1, 2019

The H-2B labor issue is not a carnival problem, it's not a concessionaire problem, and it's not a fair problem.  It is an industry problem that ultimately effects each sector that defines the fair industry.  We are all in this together!

As of January 29, 2019, nearly 50% of all Fair Industry H-2B applicants will most likely NOT receive their requested 3,000 H2B foreign skilled labor workers.  This includes carnivals, concessionaires and gaming concessions totaling over 175 Fair Industry Employers nationwide. Recent events out of Washington, including the longest government shutdown in the history of government shutdowns, has stalled efforts to approve language that could have increased the current annual H-2B worker cap of 66,000 to 132,000.  Paralleling the shutdown was 2 separate iCERT crashes on December 31st and January 7th. These government website crashes forced late timestamps on applications that nearly guarantee employers will not receive H-2B workers.  “With the Department of Labor stating that they will process via strict first-in, first-out policy, what this means is that due to the demand for visas (3 times as many applications as visas that are available) then those that were delayed by the server issue will be capped out for the second half of the fiscal year.” (Judkins, James K. Jan. 29, 2019.)

OABA's legal obligations to H-2B well exceeds $350,000 annually.  Fairs, concessionaires and exhibitors will all feel the devastating effects without the necessary labor required to move, set up and operate carnivals and concessions. For over a decade, the NICA Board of Directors has successfully voted to support these efforts with financial contributions, lobbying efforts, calls-to-action and sharing the message publicly at industry forums. The primary need for continued support in addition to financial contributions is ACTION!

“The language that needs to be included in a bill to solve the H-2B Cap Issue, either for this season or on a permanent basis, must be included in the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Bill.  Which is the most contentious bill, as this is the one that would (or would not) have the “WALL”, or Fence, or “Border Security”. 

To work out the language of the bill that the Senate and House will be writing and presenting to the President for his signature on February 15, 2019 is a Committee of 7 Senators and 10 Members of the House of Representatives. 

Please heed this call to action and make the call, send the email, write the letter.

Call Your Elected Officials:

  • You can reach your Senators and Representative through the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 225-3121.  Once connected to the office, ask to speak to the staff person who handles H-2B issues.

  • THIS IS THE “ASK” If your Senator or Representative is a conferee, please ask that the Senator or Representative include H-2B cap relief in the final DHS spending bill.

  • THIS IS THE “ASK” If your Senator or Representative is not a conferee, please ask the staff to have the Senator or Representative speak to encourage his or her party leadership and conferees to include H-2B cap relief in the final DHS spending bill. 

Email Your Elected Officials:

Please email your Senators and Representative asking them to include meaningful H-2B cap relief in a final spending package by clicking the link below, set up by the National Associations of Landscape Professionals: https://p2a.co/RZJvs2N

Thank you for your support and action of the H-2B program and its industry necessary reform.


Marla Calico, IAFE, President/CEO

Throughout the past few years we have periodically communicated with you when our friends at OABA and NICA have requested assistance in contacting federal legislators about the H2B visa situation. To recap the situation, many mobile amusement operators – your carnival company – and some mobile food vendors must have access to ready labor in order to operate at your event. You know your own labor market, but generally, there is no ready source of local, US citizen labor willing to work in these environments. H2B Visa labor – where the operator works with thoroughly vetted companies in other countries to provide temporary labor specifically to assist the carnivals (as well as many hotels, fisheries, timber work and landscaping workers across the country) – has been an excellent source of this labor, but the numbers allocated are insufficient.

The federal government has put such limited caps on the number of these visas that some carnivals cannot operate at full capacity. There is currently support in Congress to raise that cap as part of the negotiations for the FY Department of Homeland Security Budget. There is an urgency to get this action done before February 15. You can help convey the seriousness of this situation -- and how there is potential impact to your fair (and the good work you do in your community – providing opportunities for youth, supporting community non-profits, providing scholarships, etc.) by reaching out to your US Representative and your Senators as quickly as possible and ask them to include the Tillis/Harris bill in the final DHS appropriations bill.

You can reach your elected officials through the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 225-3121. Once connected to your Representative or Senator's office ask to speak to the person who handles H-2B issues. Please make these calls today!

A key message point: "This important H-2B cap relief must be included in any final FY 2019 appropriations bill. The current labor shortage is having a devastating impact on the mobile amusement operators who serve our fair as well as other seasonal industries that require workers to continue to operate and stimulate a growing economy."

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