Latest News

Below are our latest news on important news and events relating to policy changes and issues affecting farmworkers and their families.

February 01, 2016

Farmworker Justice has been awarded a two-year grant from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation Specialty Care for Vulnerable Populations® Initiative to implement a community mobilization project that will promote community integration and reduce the impact of skin cancer among farmworkers and their families in Homestead, Florida and North San Diego County, California.

The project, Unidos Eliminado Barreras para la Prevencion de Cancer de la Piel (United Eliminating Barriers to Skin Cancer Prevention), aims to increase cross-sector capacity to mobilize around skin cancer prevention, detection, treatment, and care with approaches that are sustainable in farmworker communities.

Farmworkers – people who labor on our farms and ranches – and their family members face more substantial health challenges than other groups and suffer poorer average health. Their working and living conditions expose them to long hours of ultra-violet radiation and skin irritants, putting them at a higher risk of developing skin cancer.

“We are very pleased that the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation is providing this support to help address issues relating to skin cancer in farmworkers who represent a medically underserved population that is at risk for both environmental and occupational health problems” said Bruce Goldstein, Farmworker Justice President. “In addition to providing access to skin cancer detection services, resulting in earlier detection of skin cancer and appropriate skin cancer treatment, this project will develop effective approaches and strategies to inform national private and public sector decision makers to better respond to this important public health issue.”

Farmworker Justice is pleased announce our community partners for the project are California-based Vista Community Clinic and the Farmworker Association of Florida.


January 30, 2016

This week NPR aired a story "Guest Workers, Legal Yet Not Quite Free, Pick Florida's Oranges” that featured an H-2A worker, otherwise known as an agricultural guestworker.

In an interview at the beginning of the program, a grower of Florida citrus said that his farm started using H-2A workers to avoid competing for workers who were asking for a higher wage. The farm didn’t want to pay an extra nickel a box that farmworkers asked for and that a competing grower was offering. This frank statement reveals the fundamental problems with the temporary foreign worker program.

The guestworkers don’t ask for wage increases.  Why?  Because as the story reveals, guestworkers don’t have the freedoms that we take for granted in this country.
H-2A guestworkers may only work for the one employer that obtained a visa for them.  When the job ends, they must return to their homeland.  If they want to return to the US, they must hope that the employer will invite them back and apply for a visa.  The workers have no independent ability to apply to the US government for an H-2A visa.  Technically, they hold a “non-immigrant” status.  And the law refers to these human beings as being “imported” by employers.  As if they are commodities.
In this restricted, temporary status, the workers will not usually challenge unfair or illegal conduct, or even ask for a raise.  They feel lucky to have the job.  And why not?  Usually, the wage is a lot higher than they would make in their own country.  So they will often work to the limits of human endurance.  Growers will say how “reliable” they are, but what is really going on in many cases is that these workers are under such pressure that they are extraordinarily productive. 
The story discusses the issue of who is better (or worse) off, a guestworker or an undocumented immigrant worker.  That’s a time-honored debate.  The guestworkers are taken advantage of and so are undocumented workers, but the undocumented workers are, in a sense, free.  They can change jobs, though that is often difficult. 
The story does a good job of demonstrating the lack of economic freedom in guestworker programs.  There is also a fundamental lack of political freedom.  No matter how many years the guestworkers are brought back to the U.S., they never earn the right to become an immigrant or a citizen.  Guestworkers don’t vote.  But the employers vote.  And the employers give campaign contributions.  And the employers lobby Congress and the Administration to lower the required wage rates and other obligations under the H-2A program.
The H-2A program is supposed to prevent employers from undermining the wages and working conditions of U.S. farmworkers’ job terms.  But the law and regulations generally don’t work.  The lack of economic and political bargaining power on the part of the guestworkers is just too much to overcome.
We are a nation of immigrants, not a nation of guestworkers.  The workers we need in this country – and we need farmworkers – should be given the opportunity to be immigrants and citizens.  Because the majority of farmworkers are undocumented immigrants, Congress should pass immigration reform that creates such opportunities and grants farmworkers the economic and political freedoms on which this country was founded.

January 20, 2016

Today, Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor, issued guidance on enforcement of the minimum wage and other protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act of 1983 (AWPA or MSPA). The administrative interpretation focuses on “joint employment,” which means a situation in which a group of workers is employed simultaneously by two or more entities that are considered to be “joint employers” and jointly responsible for complying with labor protections. The issue of joint employment is especially important in agriculture because many farm operators utilize farm labor contractors to hire and supervise farmworkers on their farms while denying that they “employ” those farmworkers. When such farmworkers are deprived of the minimum wage or other labor protections under these two laws, many farm operators attempt to evade the legal responsibilities owed by “employers.” Frequently, when workers achieve legal victories, labor contractors lack the resources to pay a court judgment, leaving farmworkers without a remedy. Farmworker Justice is pleased that the Department of Labor is addressing rampant wage-hour abuses associated with labor contracting.