Lower benefits to guest farmworkers sought by Trump

A NPR article of April 10 reported that the Trump Administration is trying to reduce compensation to guest farmworkers (program H-2A). The article appears to refer to changes proposed by the Dept of Labor on July 26, 2019. For a snapshot of the great increase in the use of this program by American farmers, go here.

The Department of Labor proposed changes which would lower farmer’s reimbursement to guest farm workers for their transportation to their American location. The proposed rule would require companies to refund workers for their transportation from the U.S. consulate where they received their visa, instead of their home — often a difference of several days’ travel. (It would also allow for employer-provided housing facilities to be inspected every two years instead of one.)

Workers’ wages in California could drop by $1 per hour to $12.92 and in Texas by 70 cents to $12.23, according to a Farmworker Justice statement which reviewed all the proposed changes to the guest worker program. About 3 of 4 Arizona guest workers go to lettuce fields, and on average they’re paid just above the $11 state minimum wage, according to the Arizona Department of Labor.

A 2019 report, “Ripe for Reform,” drew on interviews with 100 Mexican guest workers. Some top findings: 73% only received a partial, or no, travel reimbursement for the costs incurred to get to the U.S. 62% took out loans to get the funds needed for transportation. Another 26% of workers paid recruitment fees simply to be selected to come to the U.S. Those fees ran as high as $4,500. 34% described restrictions on their movement, such as not being permitted to leave the employer-provided housing or worksite. 43% stated that the salary they received was less than what they were promised when they were recruited in Mexico

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