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Response to Recent J-1, Work & Travel Cultural Exchange Program Exclusion


By Jeanne McDonagh, OABA Chair 2012

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Several of our OABA members, especially food concessionaires have been in contact with our office concerning this J-1 Program change and the fact that the State Department, who oversees this Cultural Exchange - Summer Work & Travel Program, has recently listed on their website, under Program Exclusions…foreign students "In positions with traveling fairs or itinerant concessionaires;"  Not only is this a concern to our members who have great experiences with these foreign students who come to the U.S. to experience our culture and learn about America, but a concern for the OABA.

Our President Bob Johnson and our lobbyist in Washington, John Meredith, with the Meredith Advocacy Group are looking into this recent exclusion, as we know many food concessionaires, independent ride operators and some carnivals have supplemented their U.S. labor with these foreign students for many years, to provide reliable labor.  These young people, usually between the ages of 18 to 25 enjoy the travel and seeing new cities. We know that many of our members take them to baseball games, river rafting or tubing and provide other experiences they don,t have in their countries.    

It is our belief that the Department of State has acted prematurely, without the opportunity for public comment by stakeholders and chose instead to only notify their approved, placement agencies of this change.  These agencies in turn have notified our industry stakeholders of this exclusion.  We believe this action by the U.S. State Department places a severe and undue hardship on small, family businesses in the mobile amusement industry, especially as they begin their fair season. 

I can assure you that the OABA will be involved, even though we are spending countless hours and financial reserves, plus the financial support of our H-2B member/stakeholders, manufacturers and suppliers and others donating to this legal challenge.  Other industries such as hotel and lodging, seafood processing and forestry are also with the OABA and SBWA in this litigation, now in federal court in Philadelphia.

I urge you to support our litigation effort with a donation to the OABA, earmarked for the H-2B Legal Initiative.

If nothing else, write your member of Congress.

This is what the OABA does for our members and others in the mobile amusement industry who are concerned about the welfare and future of their business, by protecting this industry for the next generation.

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