The entry wage for the 3,000 guest workers in Louisiana seafood and hospitality would rise from about $7.35 an hour to about $12.35 an hour. That might drive the price of a meal beyond what consumers would be willing to pay.
Crawfish fans are running into a complicated menu of problems as Louisiana’s industry faces what one restaurateur calls “a helluva pickle” entering prime mudbug season.
Frank Randol, owner of Randol’s on Kaliste Saloom and an active participant in the state’s food and restaurant associations, said the root of the problem is not natural catastrophe. Instead, he said, it’s the federal government.
“We’ve survived freezes and floods and the BP oil spill,” he said of the crawfish industry. “But this is a government-made disaster.”
Randol said the problems rest in the federal government’s handling of how H-2B employees, guest workers, enter the U.S. and are paid for seasonal work. Louisiana’s crawfish processing and hospitality industries depend upon toil from those workers, most from Mexico and some from Central America, who provide labor at seafood processing plants and at area restaurants and hotels. Such guest workers are necessary, he said, because local workers won’t take the jobs.
“I wouldn’t be doing this if I could hire enough people locally,” he said.