Labor Dept. Sows a Bogus Protection Racket for Migrant Farm Workers
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) says it wants to shield migrant agriculture workers from abuse by employers, especially given the dramatic increase in use in recent years. So, it is proposing new rules that aim to provide union protection and collective bargaining rights to foreign workers.
Though purporting to protect ag workers in general, the rule does not extend the same protections to American farm laborers.
Attorneys United for a Secure America (AUSA), a project of FAIR’s Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), stated, “Any time regulations benefit foreigners over American workers, such as these proposed regulations, American wages are suppressed.”
Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach and a coalition of 22 Republican state attorneys general, in a separate public comment, said it would be illegal for DOL to authorize union protection to migrant farm laborers when the federal government doesn’t grant collective bargaining rights to U.S. farm workers.
“Once again, the Biden administration has placed the interests of foreign nationals over the interests of United States citizens,” Kobach said.
While the rule contains new requirements on employers – including updating wage rates, ensuring H-2A workers receive copies of agreements between the employer and the recruiters, and requiring them to be more transparent about the conditions of employment – the proposal falls short of improving the visa program and stopping fraud. In its four-page public comment, AUSA stated that the rule needs to ramp up efforts on enforcing visa overstays and increasing oversight of employers who hire foreign nationals over Americans.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the DOL proposal follows a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) policy that streamlines the process for migrant workers to obtain deportation relief when they cooperate with labor investigations.
The H-2A visa program (which has no numerical caps) is effectively replacing Americans with an ever-increasing flow of cheap labor. In 1997, some 16,000 foreign H-2A workers were imported to take U.S. farm-related jobs. In the first half of fiscal 2023, the ag sector imported nearly 200,000 H-2A workers, amid complaints from some that the program constitutes “modern-day slavery.”
“Protecting foreign laborers in the United States on visas from abusive employment practices is a worthy goal,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “But [DOL’s] proposal furthers it very little, while doing nothing for American seasonal farm workers and nothing to stop human trafficking. We recommend that the Labor Department withdraw and redo this proposal so that it better achieves the purposes of the legislative programs it is supposed to implement.”