Human Rights: December 2008 Archives

The following is a guest post by Farmworker Justice, a nonprofit organization that seeks to empower migrant and seasonal farmworkers to improve their living and working conditions, immigration status, health, occupational safety and access to justice.
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850.jpgBefore leaving office, the Bush Administration is leaving one parting "gift" to our nation's farmworkers.  In midnight regulation changes to the nation's agricultural guestworker program he will slash wages and reduce worker protections for those who harvest our crops. 

The changes, proposed by the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) were revealed on the DOL website late Monday evening but have not been officially published in the Federal Register yet.

The H-2A program is a temporary agricultural guestworker program that permits employers to apply for permission to hire foreign labor for jobs lasting ten months or less.  To bring in H-2A guestworkers, employers must show that they cannot find U.S. workers who want the jobs.
 
These will be the most far-reaching changes in the laws regulating agricultural guestworker programs since 1942.  They will return us to an era of agricultural labor exploitation that many thought ended decades ago.
 
The changes cut wage rates and wage protections for both domestic and foreign workers, minimize recruitment obligations inside the U.S. and curtail or eliminate much of the government oversight that is supposed to deter and remedy illegal employer conduct. 

This parting gift on behalf of the Bush Administration to our nation's farmworkers is irresponsible and completely unacceptable.  The H-2A guestworker program is already rife with abuse.  These changes will only make a bad program worse.  That's why today, Farmworker Justice is releasing a special report, Litany of Abuses, Why We Need More --Not Fewer-- Labor Protections in the H-2A Guestworker Program.  You can download the report here: LitanyofAbuseReport12-09-08.pdf

This report explains the current protections within the program and highlights some recent court cases illustrating the harm caused to both U.S. farmworkers and guestworkers alike.  We urge you to take a look at the report then act now to urge Congress to take action to stop the Bush Administration from formally issuing the regulations.

The aim of the Administration is to create an endless supply of guestworkers who our government will allow to be exploited at low wage wages and suffer grueling productivity standards that U.S. workers cannot afford to accept.  At a time of economic crisis when the jobless rate has reached a 15 year high, such actions on the part of this outgoing administration are immoral and unacceptable. 

We call on Congress to do whatever it takes to overturn the Administration's changes to the H-2A guestworker program.  There are reasonable alternatives to the farm labor crisis that have won bipartisan support.

During this holiday season, with so many families facing overwhelming economic burdens, we must think about the families toiling to put food on our tables.  They deserve fair wages and decent working conditions.  Bush's legacy to farmworkers must be undone.

For more information on the H-2A regulatory changes, and news as it develops, please our H-2A News page on our website.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Human Rights category from December 2008.

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Human Rights: January 2009 is the next archive.

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