Temporary agricultural workers will not undergo wage freeze.
Farming is a tough industry. Farmers work hard to keep up with crops and livestock in order to sell the best possible products in supermarkets, farmers’ markets, grocery stores, and elsewhere. And many of these farmers employee temporary, seasonal workers to help them get the job done. These individuals work tirelessly to keep up with what’s expected of them during the periods for which they are employed.
That’s why it’s so critical that tens of thousands of California’s guest farmworkers and United States farmworkers are set to see a pay increases in 2022, thanks to advocacy on their behalf. The increase comes after a lawsuit filed to stop the Trump Administration’s wage freeze for temporary workers. The freeze was meant to bail out farmers by temporarily freezing minimum wages of more than 200,000 seasonal workers, allowing or $170 million in projected wages to be given back to employers.
Bruce Goldstein, the president of Farmworker Justice, said at the time of the proposed freeze, “Farmworkers are among the lowest paid workers in the nation, generally earning poverty level wages, but this policy will stop the modest progress that many farmworkers have experienced recently.”
At this time, the amount of the increase is tied to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s annual survey findings on farm labor, which was recently released at the end of November, and is designed to determine the appropriate rate of pay for temporary, seasonal workers who are offered employment through the H-2A program. The program allows employers to bring foreigners to the United States to fill temporary jobs.
The initial freeze was proposed under President Donald Trump to help farmers, many of whom lost profits and had to sell off their land because of the impact of the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Farmworker advocates filed a lawsuit, and Farmworker Justice and its co-counsel, on behalf of the United Farm Workers union and the UFW Foundation, secured an injunction to stop the court’s proceedings.
In their lawsuit, however, advocates said, “The wage freeze was unfair since farmworkers, who were officially declared essential workers during the pandemic, were putting their lives on the line to work. Growers say the wage freeze was essential to keep farms operating and grocery stores stalked as the pandemic shutdowns disrupted the food supply chain.”
The ruling would have locked in the 2019 minimum wage employers must pay foreign workers with H-2A visas, and in turn, saved farmers and landowners an estimated $1.6 billion in labor costs over the course of a decade. Doing so may have been great for the farmers themselves during such a difficult time but had a significant adverse impact on those employed to help.
“We are pleased that the federal court overturned the Trump Administration’s regulation that would have frozen wages for U.S. and foreign farmworkers at employers that use the H-2A agricultural guestworker program,” Goldstein has now said about the decision, which is a bit contrary to his original statement.