The hard working men and women who harvest our food are already paid very low wages, provided little or no benefits and excluded from basic protections. The Trump administration wants to make their situation worse. The regulatory rule changes on the H-2A guest worker program which will be posted in the Federal Register tomorrow, Friday July 26, could cut wages and protections even more for most farm workers. Help us block these changes.
If Trump's H-2A rules-changing scheme happens, there would be a huge negative impact on those currently working in agriculture. This scheme would deprive US citizens and lawful permanent residents of job opportunities by weakening the laws that require US citizens and legal residents to be offered these jobs first. The federal government indicates more than half of farm workers are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.
The already flawed current H-2A program requires growers or farm labor contractors to make a separate application for each job. This small protection in the current law allows U.S. workers to apply for local jobs. Under Trump's new plan, what currently is one job in one location could in the future become a series of jobs in multiple crops and multiple locations -- even in different states. Many U.S. workers will be less likely to apply for these jobs because it would mean leaving their families behind. This drastic move could replace local U.S. workers with foreign H-2A workers. Instead of creating jobs for U.S. workers, it would take them away.
If this change takes place, it would lower farm workers' already poor wages. The Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) is critically important in protecting domestic workers' wages and jobs and preventing exploitation of vulnerable foreign workers. This includes changing the way the AEWR is calculated, resulting in lower wages. For example, the data used in the new rules comes only from farm labor contractors who tend to pay less than growers who hire directly.
The system permits H-2A employers to reject U.S. farm workers who seek jobs but are unwilling to accept the same poor wages as the exploited H-2A workers. In addition, these harmful pay cuts will undermine the labor market and severely depress wages for all agricultural workers.
In addition, it would allow for housing abuses. The proposed regulations would allow employers to bypass annual inspections by government agencies and to even self-inspect and certify their own housing. Can you imagine what would happen, when violations like the below were occurring even with regular inspection requirements?!
A routine government inspection uncovered H2A workers in Arizona housed in school buses and windowless trailers. They had showers in nine stalls inside a cargo container; there was no functional sewage system, so wastewater accumulated underneath the container. The electrical cord used to light the facility was exposed to standing water, posing a risk of electrocution.
Basically, these regulations will help the growers lower their operating costs and put farm workers in far worse conditions than they currently suffer. Stopping these changes from taking effect will be expensive. We will need resources for a national campaign to mobilize farm workers, hire staff, get workers to various locations including Washington DC, engage legislators and so much more. That requires dollars that we just do not have. Are you in to help?