U.S. Departments of Labor, Homeland Security propose H-2A changes
Posted on Oct 12, 2023 at 16:33 PM
By the Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association
The Department of Labor (DOL) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have released new rules which they assert will strengthen protections for H-2A workers and increase their ability to monitor compliance.
This comes as users of the program still face uncertainty from previous rule changes and the challenge of a 14% increase in the Adverse Effect Wage Rate that went into effect earlier this year. The proposed rules will further complicate a program in which producers already struggle to stay ahead of compliance and rising costs of administering the program on their farms.
Of particular concern, the new rules seek to expand organized labor’s access to both farms and employee/employer’s private information. Aside from the obvious privacy issues, the rules seem to contradict a 2021 decision from the U.S. Supreme Court which found that providing activists to farms was unconstitutional.
In a statement from the National Council of Agriculture Employers, CEO Michael Marsh strongly condemned the overreaching proposal.
“DOL’s own data indicates that unfortunately some employers do not follow the lead of NCAE’s members. Their data indicates that 5% of agricultural employers account for 95% of the violations uncovered in investigations. These 5% are not NCAE members,” Marsh said. “Perhaps it is in this noncompliant subset of employers that WHD feels they had license to attack near unanimously compliant employers.”
GFVGA agreed with NCAE, noting that the new rules will further harm farmers who are already struggling to work within the layers of complex regulations. GFVGA continues to work to provide meaningful reform to the program that help growers provide a safe and healthy work environment while providing a reliable workforce to help us bring fresh fruits and vegetables to the American public.
The agencies are accepting public comment. The DOL’s proposed rule is open for public comment through Nov. 15. To submit a comment on the DOL rule, click here. The DHS rule is open for public comment through Nov. 20. To comment on the DHS rule, click here.