A lawsuit was filed Monday (Nov. 30) by the United Farm Workers and UFW Foundation in U.S. District Court in Fresno over the U.S. Department of Labor’s move to slash wages under the H-2A agricultural guest worker program. This latest Trump Administration regulation freezes wages in 2021 and 2022 for farm workers at H-2A program employers. The agricultural industry is expected to benefit from the lower wages paid to their workers, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars annually. The DOL estimates that locking in these below-market wages will transfer $170 million per year or a total of $1.68 billion,from H-2A farm workers to employers over the coming decade. U.S. farm workers will lose many millions more.
“The cruelty under Donald Trump against some of the most vulnerable and poorly paid American workers during the worst of the pandemic could not be more evident,” said UFW President Teresa Romero. “The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Labor are acting to lower farm worker wages while billions of dollars are being spent by USDA to support agricultural employers.”
“This massive transfer of wealth from farm workers to the agricultural employers in the midst of a pandemic would be devastating for the men and women who feed all of us,” said UFW Foundation Executive Director Diana Tellefson Torres. “Farm workers have already suffered tremendously as essential workers who must do their jobs during COVID-19 and have been disproportionately devastated by the virus. They should be getting paid more for risking their lives, not less.”
“This is an example of Donald Trump and the agricultural industry trying to inflict as much harm as possible on farm workers on his way out of office,” Teresa Romero added. “Trump’s goal is to lower wages and make it easier for growers to hire vulnerable and exploitable H-2A workers while also lowering pay for domestic workers.”
The lawsuit requests a preliminary injunction to halt the Trump administration regulation from taking effect on Dec. 21 plus a permanent injunction to invalidate the rule.