United Farm Workers (UFW) is urging advocates to add their voices in support of proposed regulations announced by the Biden administration that, if finalized, would reduce abuse, exploitation and trafficking of the H-2A guest farmworkers who help feed the nation. And you can help (see below).
In a number of the changes proposed by the Department of Labor (DOL) this past September, H-2A guest farmworkers would see strengthened union organizing rights and protections from unjust firing or retaliation by employers, while employers would be prohibited from confiscating workers travel documents to help prevent human trafficking, UFW said.
“Farm workers are vital to our farmers, our food supply and our communities,” Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Julie Su said in a statement. “This proposed rule would strengthen protections for H-2A farm workers who are particularly vulnerable to labor abuses, empower them to advocate for fair treatment and ensure that their employment does not depress labor standards and undercut domestic farm workers. The administration is committed to protecting all workers, and this proposal would significantly advance that effort.”
UFW said the changes are “urgently” needed. “Just last year, a federal investigation uncovered how H-2A employers ran a human trafficking ring, described by prosecutors as ‘modern day slavery’ in Florida, Texas, and Georgia,” UFW said. “In Utah, the former President of the Utah Farm Bureau is now subject to a human trafficking investigation after physically assaulting H-2A workers on his farm. Wage theft, abuse and exploitation are commonplace in the H-2A program and displace US workers while employers profit.”
VICE reported how two abusive employers in South Carolina seized documentation from H-2A guest farmworkers, which basically blocked them from leaving their worksites. Workers were then forced to carry out unpaid labor under threat of deportation. “One of the accused even allegedly brandished and fired a gun as a show of force,” the report said. Both employers were subsequently charged by the Department of Justice with counts that included conspiracy to commit labor trafficking and confiscation of passports and immigration documents in connection with labor trafficking.
“The 327 pages of complex regulations by the Biden administration would improve the lives of the hard working men and women who harvest our food and reflect the recommendations that the farm worker movement have been making for years,” UFW said. With federal lawmakers failing to pass legislation addressing farmworkers, the regulations proposed by the Biden administration are one of the best ways to help protect the laborers who feed us.
2022 saw the United States grant more H2A visas than ever before. It is more crucial than ever to ensure that these vulnerable workers are treated fairly. Add your comment on newly-proposed protections.
Go to: https://t.co/bnjQztAPJq https://t.co/HqRDmvrran
— United Farm Workers (@UFWupdates) October 24, 2023
Under law, proposed regulations must be open to public comment for a certain period of time. This is where your voice is essential. Using this simple tool from UFW, you can voice your support for the proposed regulations and bypass the more complex government website for public comment submission. The comment period for the H-2A proposed regulations closes Nov. 14, so make sure to act now for farmworkers. Click here to voice your support today.