Friday, December 12, 2008

Bush Administration to Publish Changes in the Guest Workers Program

Changes in the H-2A guest worker program are to be published shortly by the Bush administration
and go into effect two days before Barack Obama is to be inaugurated. The Labor Department claims these changes will streamline the recruiting of workers. There had been a serious drop-off in agricultural workers last summer. But the changes seem to please no one. Many farmers do not participate in the H-2A program because of its bureaucracy and so are responsible for the wide use of undocumented workers. The new regs allow for a relaxation of the requirements to seek U.S. workers first and they allow for a reduction in wages and the obligation of employers to provide amenities, such as housing. Immigrant and labor activists strenuously denounce the changes, but agree with agricultural interests that they miss the real need -- that of legalizing the state of the undocumented workers already in U.S. fields. (See NY Times article.) California is the largest agricultural state and employs 40% of farm workers, yet few farmers use the H-2A program. (See LA Times article.)

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