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Dorchester Star: Comptroller Franchot visits A.E. Phillips and Sons Seafood

Dorchester Star

Comptroller Franchot visits A.E. Phillips and Sons Seafood

August 10, 2017

By Victoria Wingate

CAMBRIDGE — Comptroller Peter Franchot travelled to Fishing Creek’s A.E. Phillips and Sons Seafood to take a tour of the facility and present a proclamation on Monday, July 31.

General Manager Morgan Tolley led the tour, joined by company CEO Steve Phillips, Del. Johnny Mautz, R-37B-Talbot, Register of Wills Doris Lewis, and Dorchester County Orphan Court Judge Calvin Travers.

Franchot and guests were given a brief lesson on blue crab anatomy and methods used to catch them, met a crab fisherman bringing in the day’s catch to sell right from his boat, visited the picking house where seasoned employees picked apart a crab in the blink of an eye, and heard the story of the company from founder Phillips himself.

A hot topic of discussion in the picking house was the issue of the H2B visa program, a program on which the crab-picking industry relies upon. The number of visas available has been cut in the last several years to decrease foreign competition for American jobs, but Tolley and Phillips stress that Americans refuse to perform jobs such as picking crabs.

“These positions are advertised locally, and they can’t fill them locally,” said Mautz. “If we can’t get those H2B workers, we’re in big trouble.”

Tolley said he advertises locally online and in print, and no one even views the application online, much less applies.

“There’s 2.3 million American jobs for every one of these men and women that come here,” said Tolley. “Think about your truck drivers, office personnel, refrigeration, box companies, ice makers, baiters, carpenter, electrician, and watermen. It’s what I keep saying every spring when we’re going through getting visas, I look at the watermen and say, ‘If I don’t get crab pickers, where are you going to sell your crabs?’”

Phillips said some of the employees that come to work in the picking and packing facility have been working seasonally for the company for 15 to 20 years. He said the company can’t get even one American to do the job of picking and processing crabs.

Franchot listened to their concerns, and it will remain to be seen if, with the help of Mautz and Governor Larry Hogan, the H2B visa situation can be improved upon.

To conclude the visit, Franchot presented a proclamation to Phillips and company COO John Knorr for A.E. Phillips and Sons many years of successful business and their contribution to the Maryland economy.

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