Apr 30, 2019Ag labor group seeks change in wage rate determination
The National Council of Agricultural Employers (NCAE) has petitioned the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and its Secretary, Alex Acosta, to amend the regulatory methodology used in determining whether an alternative wage other than a market-based wage should be required in the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Worker Program.
NCAE points out in the petition that the fatally flawed method presently used has caused the contrived Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) to spiral out of control jeopardizing farm and ranch family sustainability.
“The jeopardy is real,” said Michael Marsh, president and CEO of NCAE. “This can be remedied by the Department simply doing what the law requires. The DOL is to determine whether workers employed through the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Worker visa program has an adverse effect on domestic workers. We are asking the secretary to do just that.”
Presently the DOL utilizes the USDA’s Farm Labor Survey (FLS) to establish the AEWR. The echo effect of using the prior year’s surveyed mean wage to become the subsequent year’s minimum wage, results in a wage spiral disconnected from the labor market. This spiral resulted in year over year minimum wage increases in parts of the U.S. of nearly 23% in 2019.
“Not only are farm and ranch families in peril, the loyal, hard-working farmworkers who rely on them for jobs are placed at risk as well,” Marsh said. “If you don’t have farms, the jobs associated with them disappear, and you increase Americans’ reliance on imported food.”
According to the University of California, imports of fruit and vegetables have boomed. About half of US fresh fruit (53 percent in 2017) and almost a third of US fresh vegetables (31 percent in 2017) are imported.
Marsh argues, “Nations that are food insecure and forced to rely on others, have little national security. Our petition asks the secretary to strengthen national security and not bypass statutory requirements.”
A copy of the petition can be found below: