An End to Summer Work Travel Programs Could End Seasonal and Summer Businesses

Summer is here and you’ve probably got fun-filled vacation plans. Maybe you’re looking forward to going to the beach, vacationing at your favorite resort, dining out at great restaurants, taking the kids to water or amusement parks? So are thousands of American vacationers who are expecting fun, sun and great summer service. But the reality is that many vacationers will find businesses running at lower service levels. Inn owners may be washing dishes rather than greeting guests; restaurant owners are working as short order cooks; untidy hotels could become an epidemic; and pools, parks and souvenir shops might not be operating at peak capacity.

What’s going on?

All around the country, businesses –particularly in the hospitality and tourism sectors – are being negatively impacted by changes to foreign worker policies. And it’s only going to get worse with the foreign worker restrictions and reductions under “America First Foreign Policy.” The proposed changes seriously threaten to reduce the number of foreign students who can come to the US to work in summertime and seasonal positions.

These students have helped American-owned businesses run smoothly for the past 50 years. They come to the US in the hundreds of thousands each year to fill summer, short-term or other seasonal positions under a cultural exchange program sponsored by the US Department of State.

Hospitality and tourism positions such as housekeepers, cooks, servers, bartenders, bellman, lifeguards, amusement park workers, sales clerks, hostesses etc., that are often filled by visiting students, may be vacant and American businesses will suffer. So will American vacationers and tourists.

The fallacy is that these are jobs Americans should have. But many Americans say, “thanks, but no thanks,” to menial labor, low-salary and temporary positions that foreign students and workers are happy-even grateful- to have. In addition, with record unemployment rates, American businesses simply can’t find enough people. The Summer Work Travel and other foreign worker visas enable many American businesses to run during peak seasons at peak capacity.

Ah hem….even Mr. Trump depends on foreign workers to run his hospitality businesses! Why? Because just like other American businesses, there simply aren’t enough workers in many US cities and towns.

The irony is that these cultural exchange and work visa actually help rather than harm, the American economy. Many economists argue that staffing these jobs with temporary employees creates the need for higher-paying managerial jobs, keeps businesses operating so they can retain full-time employees and brings millions of dollars in additional revenue to towns all over the country.

This situation is sounding an alarm all over America, as businesses face a critical staffing shortages that are crippling Mom and Pop businesses, even forcing some to shut down or substantially reduce their services and hours.

The worker shortage is so bad in some areas and industries that the Department of Homeland Security recently announced that more2B wor foreign worker H2B visas will be issued, to ease the pain to businesses that have been “harmed” by the lack of workers.

It’s likely that we will see this cause-and-effect-negative cycle repeat if the Summer Work Travel visas are similarly reduced.

We’re going to go out on a limb that even more is at stake than the economic impact that we’ve already experienced with the reduction in H2B work visas.

The Summer Work Travel, is not a labor program; it’s a cultural exchange program. The intent and purpose is to bring foreign students, many of whom will be future leaders of their countries, to the US to learn about American business, culture and ideals. It’s a diplomacy effort that works. “To Know US is to Love US.” Seriously. It’s a subtle but effective way of impacting and influencing generations of future business and world leaders. It’s not propaganda; it’s education, and it works both ways.

American businesses who have come to rely on and engage with foreign students truly benefit by the energy, enthusiasm and cross-cultural education that naturally happens when people get to know one another. We’re a global and diverse nation, and having American businesses that reflect our country’s diversity is a huge benefit to everyone.

If we misguidedly think that dialing back on important “soft diplomacy” programs like the Summer Work Travel is going to help Americans, then God help America!

This is no Chicken Little cry- but it is an appeal for everyone to slow down and consider the recent painful lessons learned by the reduction in foreign work visas. America needs programs like the Summer Work Travel that support our prosperity, security and diplomacy initiatives.

Summer should be a time for fun and a time for seasonal businesses to thrive and run at full capacity.

Protecting the businesses and communities that rely on supplementing jobs with foreign students should be a concern to every American.