At the same time that farm workers are proving themselves indispensable, the Trump administration is seeking to slash the hourly pay of farm workers by $2 to $5 per hour.
Wall Street Journal story by Michelle Hackman and Jesse Newman, “White House Seeks to Reduce Pay for Farmworkers:”
The Trump administration is taking steps to reduce costs and restrictions on farmers looking to hire migrant workers during the coronavirus pandemic, including lowering their minimum wages, according to people familiar with the plans. The push is driven by new White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, these people said, and many agricultural employers support lower wages.
…The wage change, which the administration hasn’t yet formally proposed, would effectively cut the minimum wage for migrant farmworkers to $8.34 an hour, 15% above the federal minimum wage. That would amount to a cut of around $2 to $5 an hour from current wage rates, which vary by state.
… Bruce Goldstein, president of the advocacy group Farmworker Justice, said the wage cuts would hit migrant farmworkers hard, slashing hourly wages by $3.91 in North Carolina and $2.79 in Georgia from 2019 levels … ‘Farmworkers deserve premium pay for their hazardous jobs and there should be no discussion about lowering farmworkers’ wages,’ said Mr. Goldstein…
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
Immigrants and refugee workers are always indispensable, but never more than at this moment of crisis. Yet the Trump administration views them as expendable. How else to explain the effort to slash farmworkers’ wages by $2 to $5 per hour during a pandemic?
Farmworkers and other immigrants on the frontlines should be receiving additional hardship pay, not having wages slashed. They should be included in the federal relief and recovery bills, not treated as an underclass of essential workers and unrecognized human beings. Moreover, they should be treated as the Americans they already are and given a line to get into so they can secure work permits, green cards and eventually citizenship.
A Time story by Lissandra Villa, “‘We’re Ignored Completely.’ Amid the Pandemic, Undocumented Immigrants Are Essential But Exposed,” describes the indispensable role of many undocumented immigrants, such as farmworkers at the current moment – a reminder why the Trump administration effort to slash their wages is so cruel and cynical. The piece notes that undocumented workers:
…are now working the essential jobs the nation is relying on—in apple orchards and grocery stores, food processing plants and hospitals. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that 6 million immigrant workers (a figure that does not take into account legal status) are in jobs on the front lines of coronavirus response, while another 6 million are in industries hardest hit by the pandemic. In normal times, undocumented labor is a pillar of the U.S. economy. In these extraordinary times, immigrant advocates say lawmakers must recognize the contributions that essential undocumented workers are making.
‘At a time of crisis, when America needs a certain segment of its society to keep functioning so that we can all be safe and healthy, a significant chunk of that indispensable workforce is not formally recognized as Americans,’ says Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, an immigration advocacy group. Those workers, he says, ‘are risking their lives in order to serve the country they call home.’
…U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican from Florida who has long been involved in conversations about immigration reform and who was one of the first congressmen to contract COVID-19, says he is open to a pathway to legal status for those who worked on the frontlines of coronavirus response. ‘We should look at folks who have served in important roles in our society as potential people who deserve a pathway towards legalization, says Diaz-Balart.’