Crawfish peelers trickling into state

Louisiana crawfish peelers hand-peel every crawfish. There is no automated process to extract the crawfish tailmeat from the shell.

Louisiana crawfish peelers hand-peel every crawfish. There is no automated process to extract the crawfish tailmeat from the shell.

Crawfish Report has reported several times this year that Louisiana crawfish peeling labor to produce crawfish tailmeat for restaurants and everyday consumers has been in short supply in 2015 because of unsettled national labor issues.Without an outlet to process oversupply and smaller crawfish into tailmeat, the crawfish season can be shortened because prices for the boil market will sink to unprofitable levels and buyers will lower prices until crawfish farmers quit harvesting and wild crawfishermen stop fishing.

Louisiana peeling houses must jump through a series of bureaucratic hoops to bring in guest workers under the federal H2B guest labor program. They must show that they cannot find sufficient labor in the American market by buying costly advertising in newspapers and other outlets to recruit workers. When they can prove that the positions cannot be filled locally, only then are they allowed to hire temporary guest laborers. Only 60,000 guest laboreres are allowed into the U.S. under the H2B program in a calendar year.

The peeling houses must provide housing and transportation for their guest workers once they are in the United States. Employers must also pay the top prevailing wage for crawfish peelers in the area. That means if peelers in the Henderson area are earning $8.50 an hour but Eunice processors are paying $10, then Henderson must also pay the higher wage to hire the guest workers.

Below is a press release from Law360 detailing how the Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals overturned a U.S. Department of Labor ruling denying visa to 45 much needed peelers.

Crawfish peeling is a tedious unskilled job that requires peelers to be fast and efficient in their peeling techniques. The Louisiana Crawfish Promotion and Research Board is supporting efforts to create a crawfish peeling machine but there is no significant progress at this point.

BALCA Nixes Certification Denial For 45 Crawfish Workers
Share us on: By Kevin Penton

Law360, New York (May 11, 2015, 3:37 PM ET) — A Louisiana crawfish processing company will be able to hire 45 temporary foreign employees after a federal appeals board determined Friday they were wrongfully denied.

A newspaper advertisement for the 45 H-2B visas offered by Louisiana’s Crawfish Processing LLC was correct, and its prevailing wage determination was up to date at the time, according to the Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals.

A certifying officer with the U.S. Department of Labor appeared to look at the wrong advertisement, mistaking another company’s solicitation for five jobs for the company’s actual ad for 45 jobs, according to Friday’s order.

“Had the CO more carefully read the information that employer submitted in response to the [request for further information,] the CO would not have asserted that employer’s February 12, 2015 advertisement was deficient in any way,” Administrative Law Judge Paul R. Almanza wrote in the order.

The certifying officer also improperly denied the application by finding that the company’s prevailing wage determination had expired in February when it advertised the jobs, according to the order. The expiration date for the determination, which offered the jobs at $9.63 an hour, was April 21.

The company was seeking packers and packagers for the crawfish, to work from April 21 to June 30, according to the order.

Company representatives could not be reached Monday for comment.

The H-2B visa program allows employers to hire foreign workers to perform temporary
nonagricultural work in the U.S. on a single, seasonal, peak load or intermittent basis, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

One of the directives for the appeals board is labor certifications, which employers need as part of the process for obtaining foreign worker visas.