Farmworker Advocates File Suit Over H-2A Pay Freeze

Farmworker groups filed a lawsuit accusing the Trump administration of trying to suppress worker wages. Their suit asks a federal judge to set aside a Labor Department rule that could cut agricultural guest worker wages by up to $170 million over the next ten years. A Successful Farming article says the Labor Department rule goes into effect on December 21. The advocacy group Farmworker Justice says the estimated drop in wages would be a result of the Labor Department’s new approach to calculating the minimum wage, also known as the Adverse Effect Wage Rate, for foreigners working in the U.S. under H-2A visas. The AEWR is intended to protect pay rates for U.S. workers. “Labor Secretary Scalia’s decision to freeze farmworkers’ wage rates under the H-2A agricultural guest worker program for two years is an utterly arbitrary and unlawful act that inflicts harm to some of the most vulnerable workers in the nation,” says Bruce Goldstein, head of Farmworker Justice. The Labor Department says its rule would stabilize H-2A wage rates for 2021 and 2022 at this year’s levels. Goldstein says the actual effect would be to “lower the wage rates of several hundred thousand farmworkers.”