Hospitality industry struggles to find summer employees

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MEDORA, N.D. - Seasonal international workers are as much needed as hotels, resorts, and restaurants get ready for the summer.

But, businesses around the country are struggling to fill those spots because of a cap on visas.

Lyubomyr Shkandriy came to Medora from Ukraine 12 years ago.

"I thought I would come here and there would be trees and mountains. And nothing like that was on there way here from Bismarck," said Lyubomyr Shkandriy, Rough Rider Hotel food and dining director.

Shkandriy worked his way from washing dishes to being a food and beverage director. A 19-year-old student, to husband, father, and Medora resident.
"They say, 'You'll become a cowboy one day.' And I say 'I'll be anyone but cowboy,'" said Shkandriy​.

But, hotels like the Rough Riders Hotel are struggling to find international workers like Shkandriy this summer.

"A year ago we had maybe 11 H-2-Bs here already. Today, we have none," said Mike Beaudoin, chief operating officer, Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation.

A cap has been reached on H-2-B visas, which allows foreign workers to hold seasonal, non-agricultural jobs.

This year, Congress didn't pass an exemption that separates returning workers from that count.

Medora usually welcomes 60 H-2-B workers each summer. This year, they only have 45.

"We do all we can to hire the American workers, but we just don't get enough applications. We're a town of 100. Our labor pool is very short," said Beaudoin.

International workers work in a variety of places around Medora, including housekeeping, in kitchens, and in restaurants, which is why Beaudoin says they're such a vital part of the hotel's success.

"There's just not enough people here to fill what the town needs. So I think the international community fills that little piece," said LaVetta Kordonow-Gonzales, volunteer.

And with Memorial Day in less than a month, there's much to be done.

"As sleepy as it looks today, it will come alive here very soon," said Beaudoin.

Beaudoin says they're still waiting for some visa applications to be filed so employees can start working.

This week, Congress will be voting on a bill that would increase the number of H-2-B visas . ​