The long anticipated regulation changes to slash wages and reduce worker protections under the H-2A agricultural guestworker program are out. The changes, proposed by the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) were revealed on the DOL website late Monday evening but have not yet been officially published in the Federal Register.
The changes are horrible. At a time when the jobless rate is at a 15 year high, they reduce obligations for growers to effectively recruit U.S. workers before applying to bring in guestworkers for these jobs. They lower the wage rates for all farmworkers by changing the program's wage formula and, in an industry known for labor abuses, they eliminate or reduce government oversight.
This parting gift on behalf of the Bush Administration to our nation's farmworkers is irresponsible and completely unacceptable. The H-2A guestworker program is already rife with abuse. These changes will only make a bad program worse. That's why today, Farmworker Justice is releasing a special report, Litany of Abuses: Why more -not fewer-labor protections are needed in the H-2A program. This report explains the current protections within the program and highlights some recent court cases illustrating the harm caused to both U.S. farmworkers and guestworkers alike. We urge you to take a look at the report then act now to urge Congress to take action to stop the Bush Administration from formally issuing the regulations. There are reasonable alternatives to solve the farm labor crisis that have won bipartisan support. The Bush Administration's harmful changes are completely unnecessary.
These midnight regulations will put farmworkers in this country back more than 60 years. During this holiday season, with so many families facing overwhelming economic burdens, we must think about the people toiling to put food on our tables. They deserve fair wages and decent working conditions. Bush's legacy to farmworkers must be undone.