Trump freezes frontline farmworker wages after Election Day

The Trump administration estimates its new rule change will cut the earnings of farmworkers who come to the U.S. on H-2A visas by about $170 million each year — a move an advocate calls "reprehensible."

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Just after Election Day, the Trump administration made a move freezing wages of farm laborers working under H-2A visas until 2023.  This move could severely harm low-wage guest workers who have already been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, reports Truthout

According to the Daily Poster, The H-2A visa program allows foreign farmworkers to access temporary visas to work in the United States for approved employers.

The rule will help corporate interests deny pay hikes to farmworkers who are a major asset to maintaining the nation’s food supply. 

Back in September, the Trump admin, via Secretary of Agriculture [Sonny] Perdue “published a one-page notice announcing that the USDA was suspending the Farm Labor Survey, a data collection tool that has been used for over a century to calculate wages for migrant workers, known as Adverse Effect Wage Rates (AEWRs),” explains The Daily Poster’s Julia Rock. 

A federal judge, however, had then blocked the suspension of the Farm Labor Survey. So this is not the Trump administration’s second attempt to cut wages of H-2A workers. 

Perdue, who is personally invested in agribusiness, applauds the rule saying: “This rule shows once again President Trump’s commitment to America’s farmers by delivering lower costs when they need it the most. Over the past several years farm wages have increased at a higher pace than other industries, which is why this DOL rule could not come at a better time.” 

Even before the pandemic, H-2A farmworkers faced poor working conditions. Most also start in debt after using a recruiter to find their place of employment. Then once they are hired, their visas are tied to that particular employer leaving workers vulnerable to abuses. 

The next administration could reverse this decision, but it will be a process that could take years leaving these necessary workers in harms way.

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