Nearly twice as many meat-processing plants employ short-term foreign workers than in 2015, "a small but growing trend" in the industry, said an Investigate Midwest report. Seaboard Foods, one of the companies using H-2B guestworkers, said it pays the workers the same wage and provides the same benefits that it gives domestic employees, although the comparatively small number of guestworkers wear a hard hat with an identifying color.
In a lawsuit accusing the Trump administration of trying to suppress wages, farmworker groups asked a federal judge to set aside a Labor Department rule on pay to agricultural guestworkers that could cut their earnings by $170 million over a decade. The Labor Department rule, which indirectly affects wages for all farmworkers, is scheduled to take effect on Dec. 21.
Six weeks after sponsors unveiled their plan, the House is scheduled to vote on a bipartisan bill to provide legal status to undocumented farmworkers and to modernize the H-2A guestworker program. If passed, the bill has an uncertain future, with impeachment dominating the congressional agenda and the Republican-run Senate blockading legislation from the Democratic-controlled House.
For years, farmers and ranchers were required to advertise in newspapers for American workers before they were allowed to hire seasonal workers from other nations. Effective Oct. 21, employers can post job openings on a Labor Department site — SeasonalJobs.dol.gov — and dispense with printed advertisements.
The electoral circuitry to revive the Republican-written House farm bill this week looks like the mechanism of a Rube Goldberg machine. Republican leaders plan floor votes on two immigration bills, neither certain of passage, to generate support among hardline conservatives for the farm bill. A close vote is expected, just like the roll call that sank the bill a month ago.
As the House potentially takes up immigration reform in the coming weeks, the largest U.S. farm group wants to make sure agricultural labor is part of the legislation. The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has revised his plan for a new, year-round H-2C visa program to make it more attractive to farmers, who worry about their existing, undocumented workforce as well as the creation of a more manageable guestworker program.
The reason Americans rarely take timber jobs in public forests isn’t because they don’t like to work hard. It’s because a combination of immigration laws, tight federal budgets and divisive politics have turned forestry jobs into little more than low-paid servitude, writes Hal Herring in FERN’s story [LINK] with High Country News.