July 27, 2009
AUGUSTA – Governor John E. Baldacci today learned that the U.S. Department of Labor will be auditing more than two dozen companies applying for foreign labor certification (H-2A visas) from the federal agency. He said that he is pleased that the United States Department of Labor is addressing the State’s concerns regarding logging contracting practices that may be unfairly limiting hiring of Maine loggers in favor of Canadian labor.
“I am pleased that the U.S. Department of Labor is acting swiftly to address concerns that the community, State and Maine Congressional Delegation have registered about alleged illegal business practices by some logging companies,” said Governor Baldacci. “We must be vigilant in ensuring that jobs in Maine are able to be accessed by Maine workers first. My Administration has found a number of potential issues that both we and the federal government are going to continue to investigate.”
“I appreciate Maine’s Congressional Delegation for their attention and assistance on this issue,” said the Governor.
Maine Department of Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman requested the U.S. Department of Labor to take a closer look at some companies that do not appear to have a permanent physical location in the state and that are hiring Canadian loggers. This physical presence is required by a logging company that wishes to obtain foreign labor certification. Companies that are not in compliance with the laws governing the Foreign Labor Certification process face possible penalties. The Department of Labor’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification wants companies utilizing the H-2A temporary agricultural program to fully understand the program’s requirements and responsibilities. Information is available at the following web site http://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/
The businesses will have 21 days to respond to the request for certain information and then a team from the federal agency will conduct the necessary review of documentation. Companies found to be in non-compliance face possible penalties including revoking their labor certification and debarment for up to three years from the program, meaning the companies could not hire H-2A foreign workers for that amount of time.
In addition to action taken by the federal agency, the Maine Department of Labor will be initiating procedures for discontinuation of services to two employers. Discontinuation of services would result in excluding those employers from access to the state job bank. Posting jobs on the state job bank is a requirement prior to bringing in foreign workers pursuant to regulations governing the H-2A program.
Anyone who has evidence of unfair hiring practices or has a complaint is encouraged to contact the Maine Department of Labor at 1-888-457-8883 or TTY: 1-800-794-1110.