In the July WIP, we reported that the state of Washington had created and funded a new office to ensure that businesses lived up to federal laws prescribing protections for temporary agricultural workers (guest workers) hired under H-2A rules. Agricultural operators are allowed to bring in these temp workers only when there are not enough farmworkers available locally.
Ag businesses favor using guest workers because they are captive and subject to lower pay, while residents who do farm work can demand a living wage. They are captive because they’re brought in solely to work for one owner and subject to instant deportation if that owner decides they are too demanding…or something.
Surprise! Just as the state of Washington is gearing up to put teeth into the federal protections—the Trump administration is taking them away. The Department of Labor has published regulations that would give businesses more leeway to hire more guest workers—potentially taking jobs that would have gone to Washington farmworkers, and paying lower to put downward pressure on local wages. Businesses would also be able to by-pass the federal inspections that ensure safe housing and medical care in favor of “self inspection.”
At the same time, the new proposal would regulate our farmworkers’ ability to apply for jobs making it harder for Washington’s them to apply for and get jobs—especially skilled farm jobs—each summer. Other elements of the proposal also give agricultural businesses more power create other obstacles to employment for our local farmworkers.
To learn more or send comments, search for United Farm Workers Trump H-2A proposal.