The Bush Administration has revealed devastating changes to an agricultural guestworker program. This program is known as H-2A, and has existed since 1986. It allows for farm owners and agricultural employers to bring in foreign born citizens to work on temporary visas.
This program has never been popular with unionizers and farm worker rights groups due to it’s negligent and oppressive nature. In fact it’s predecessor, the H-2, program ended over the controversial abuse workers in the program endured.
Currently, employers who are taking advantage of H-2A are required to hire foreign laborers for short-term jobs only. Also they must prove that they attempted and are incapable of hiring U.S. workers. In addition, H-2A requires that employers make sure that the hiring of the foreign-born laborers doesn’t negatively effect the compensation or the working conditions of their original employees, or U.S. laborers. The existing program provides some labor protection, but it has been widely criticized. It’s lax enforcement of policy has lead to wage violations, discriminatory refusals to hire worthy U.S. workers, and lamentable housing conditions.
The H-2A program has proven itself to be flawed and unfair since it’s conception. Guestworkers have a restricted situation, and therefore are often forced to cope with abusive employers. They don’t have the same bargaining position as U.S. workers, and are easily taken advantage of.
Sadly, the Bush administration feels the need to further degrade the laws protecting these workers… just as it liberates the American people from it’s claws. The Department of Labor plans on reducing the farmer’s obligation to actively seek out U.S. workers before applying forguestworkers, changing the program wage formula to reduce worker’s earnings, and eradicating government guardianship of the program.
“Eliminating labor law enforcement in an industry known for violating the minimum wage is irresponsible and completely unacceptable,” - Bruce Goldstein, Executive Director of Farmworker Justice.
It seems the Bush administration is more interested in destroying workers’ rights than creating jobs for American workers. Farm work is dangerous and poorly paid as it is, and it just got a lot worse. Congress can undo the damage wrought by the Bush administration. Write to your congressperson and tell them to stop these changes from taking effect.