Latest News

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

January 25, 2018

Leading farmworker organizations and advocates for farmworkers in the United States and Mexico today are submitting a petition under the NAFTA labor side agreement challenging the failure of the United States government to comply with its obligations to protect international migrant workers who are hired under the H-2A agricultural guestworker program.  

The petition was submitted to the National Administrative Office in Mexico City for the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC), requesting action by the North American Commission on Labor Cooperation (“Commission”), which the U.S., Mexico and Canada established.

The petition was submitted by Farmworker Justice; the United Farm Workers (UFW); the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO (FLOC); and Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN, Oregon’s farmworker union), which are based in the United States, and Proyecto de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales, A.C (ProDESC), which is based in Mexico.

Principle 11 of the NAALC, on Protection of Migrant Workers, states the parties’ goal of providing migrant workers in one nation’s territory with the same labor law protection that apply to its own nationals.  The Agreement also imposes enforceable obligations on the three nations to provide high labor standards; effective, impartial tribunals; effective remedies to achieve compliance with labor laws; and effective action by each government to enforce workers’ rights.

The principal federal employment law for farmworkers in the United States excludes H-2A agricultural workers from its protections and remedies.  That law is the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act of 1983 (referred to as “AWPA” or “MSPA”).  It was passed to address persistent problems faced by farmworkers and strengthened an earlier law.

The petitioners seek to reduce abuses in the H-2A program, which recently has been expanding rapidly, to over 200,000 agricultural guestworkers in 2017, mostly from Mexico.  Abuses in the H-2A program have been reported by many sources over many years, including in the Farmworker Justice report, “No Way to Treat a Guest,” and a series of articles in Buzzfeed.   

The AWPA establishes obligations on farm operators and other agricultural businesses, including farm labor contractors. The AWPA contains significant protections regarding recruitment, hiring, employment, payment of wages, transportation, and housing of migrant farmworkers.  Importantly, the AWPA authorizes victimized workers to file a lawsuit in U.S. federal courts to enforce its protections.  It creates several remedies to compensate workers, stop ongoing violations, and deter future violations, including monetary damages, special “statutory damages” and injunctive relief.  

The exclusion of H-2A visa workers from the AWPA deprives them of labor protections, remedies, and access to federal courts, all of which have been deemed important and effective to protect migrant workers in the United States. Although the law and regulations of the H-2A program require certain protections for U.S. and foreign workers at H-2A program employers, the AWPA provides different and additional protections and remedies for U.S. migrant workers.  H-2A guestworkers seeking to enforce their employment contracts are relegated to state courts and often to inferior remedies under state contract laws.

H-2A guestworkers, arguably among the migrant workers most in need of protection due to their vulnerability, should not be excluded from AWPA’s protections and remedies.    

The petition, formally known as a “public communication,” requests commencement of proceedings under the Labor Side Agreement, formally known as the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC), to address the violations of the NAALC and obtain all appropriate remedies.  The petition seeks agreement among the U.S., Mexico and Canada, that the protections and remedies in the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, or their equivalent, will be extended to migrant workers employed in the United States under the H-2A temporary foreign agricultural worker program.

Contact information:

 

Bruce Goldstein

President, Farmworker Justice

Washington, D.C. 20036

202-800-2521

[email protected]

www.farmworkerjustice.org

 

Leydy Rangel

Communications Specialist

United Farm Workers Foundation

California

[email protected] / (760) 899-4604

(bilingual)

 

Elena Villafuerte

Responsable del Programa de Análisis e Incidencia

Proyecto de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales (ProDESC)

(5255) 52122229/ 52122230- 758608840/ 75860885

[email protected]

Calle Zamora 169-A Condesa, México D.F.

Facebook /ProDESC.AC

Twitter: @ProDESC

www.prodesc.org.mx

(bilingual)

January 11, 2018

Farmworker Justice Statement on Rep. Goodlatte’s Anti-Immigrant Bill

Yesterday, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Representatives McCaul, Labrador and McSally, released a hard-line anti-immigration proposal entitled the “Securing America’s Future Act.”  Farmworker Justice opposes this multi-faceted proposal, which incorporates Goodlatte’s anti-worker, anti-immigrant Agricultural Guestworker Act. The bill combines many of the worst elements of anti-immigrant policies, including building a costly border wall, increasing arrests and deportations of undocumented immigrants, attacking sanctuary cities, and eliminating existing opportunities for family reunification as well as the diversity visa program. Although it purports to offer relief to Dreamers, the bill only offers a three-year, temporary legal status, without any permanent solution or path to citizenship.

The bill would also require employers to use E-verify, which would exacerbate discrimination against Latinos and foreign-born workers, who make up the majority of the farm labor source. If enacted, the agricultural guestworker provisions in the bill would replace the current H-2A agricultural guestworker program with a devastating new program, the H-2C program. The H-2C program would expand employer access to potentially millions of vulnerable new “guestworkers,” while slashing worker protections for hundreds of thousands of U.S. farmworkers, leading to job losses, lower wages and exploitation. Instead of providing experienced undocumented farmworkers with a path to immigration status and citizenship, the only option this bill provides is for those workers to self-deport with limited options to return as subjugated contract laborers under the new H-2C program.

Rep. Goodlatte, a long-time immigration restrictionist, is trying to push his extreme anti-immigrant agenda at a moment of bipartisan negotiations between legislators and the White House to reach a much-needed solution for Dreamers. Farmworker Justice President Bruce Goldstein stated: “Congress must reject the Goodlatte bill because it is anti-immigrant, anti-worker, cruel, impractical, costly and harmful to our food and agriculture systems.  Congress must provide a solution now for Dreamers, many of whom are farmworkers and from farmworker families. We must continue in the longer term to reform our broken immigration system through policies that respect our history as a nation of immigrants and our democratic and economic freedoms.”

January 09, 2018

Report by Trump Administration Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity Fails Farmworkers, their Families and their Communities

On January 8, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Chair of the inter-agency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity, established by President Trump, publicly released its Report to the President of the United States, which is dated October 21, 2017.

The 42-page report is fundamentally flawed because it ignores the interests and needs of farmworkers and their family members. While it acknowledges the existence of farmworkers, it treats them largely as economic inputs utilized by farmers rather than as living, breathing human beings who are vital to the economy and rural communities.

The report makes no mention of the word immigration despite it being of vital significance to the future of agriculture and rural communities.  The Task Force states that farmers are having difficulty finding workers who are citizens or lawful permanent residents to fill their jobs, and acknowledges that undocumented workers are being hired.  It does not, however, state the reality that at least one-half (and probably much more) of the farm labor force is undocumented.  In a major failing, the report does not recommend immigration reform that would grant undocumented workers a chance for immigration status and a path to citizenship.

The report ignores the relationship between the growers’ difficulty attracting and retaining adequate numbers of workers and the fact that agricultural work in the U.S. is characterized by low wages and lack of fringe benefits, high rates of injuries and workplace abuses, and discrimination in labor laws that deprives farmworkers of many protections applicable to most other workers. The report does not discuss the need to remedy and prevent the rampant violations of labor protections in agriculture that harm farmworkers as well as law-abiding employers.

The report suggests that the Administration will be making policy and regulatory changes to the H-2A agricultural guestworker program in response to complaints that were “well communicated by farmers.”  The report ignores the many well-documented abuses experienced by farmworkers under the H-2A program.  Nor does the report suggest why agricultural workers should be forced into a guestworker status with no path to democratic or economic freedoms applicable to immigrants and citizens.

Even when discussing the needs of rural communities in order to improve quality of life – such as addressing gaps in infrastructure, housing, access to health care and internet connectivity – the report fails to identify the particular challenges faced by farmworkers.  Instead the report focuses on the needs of businesses and farm owners or other rural residents.

The report briefly mentions the need for science-based regulations to ensure the health of consumers of food, but there is no mention of confronting pesticides and other occupational hazards that disproportionately kill and injure farmworkers.

The Task Force also lost an opportunity to encourage positive trends in agriculture by neglecting to discuss corporate social responsibility in the food supply chain.  Government should encourage companies that are responding to consumers’ demands for assurances that food production occurs responsibly with regard to the treatment of farmworkers in the fields.

Any report on the future of agriculture and rural prosperity should recognize the contributions and needs of the nation’s approximately 2.5 million farmworkers and their family members. The Task Force does not appear to have taken advantage of the informed views of many farmworkers and their representatives as well as numerous reports, books and studies about the needs of this nation’s farmworkers, families and communities.  This report, despite raising some valid concerns and offering some helpful recommendations about agriculture and rural communities, has failed the President and the public.

        Bruce Goldstein

        President, Farmworker Justice

        January 9, 2018