First on Fox: Republicans are calling on the Biden administration to withdraw a rule reforming the H-2A farmworker visa program — claiming it is a “giveaway to big labor” and violates farmers’ property rights.
“The proposed rule exceeds the authority of the Department of Labor, is a giveaway to the Labor Party, infringes on farmers’ property rights, and is overly burdensome in many other ways,” House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman Virginia Foxx and Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn Thompson wrote to acting Labor. Department Secretary Julie Su.
The department announced the rule in September, which builds on a rule published last year regarding the H-2A program — which grants temporary or “nonimmigrant” visas to foreign farmworkers.
Republicans question Department of Labor over farmworker visas, official warnings of dire conditions
As a move aimed at addressing concerns about mistreatment of workers in the program, the rule expands workers’ rights to invite guests — including union officials — to employer-provided housing and meetings with employers. It will also require employers to submit lists of workers to requesting labor organizations. The Biden administration says this move increases transparency.
The rule also makes the new wage rates applicable immediately, rather than weeks later. It would also require employers to provide transportation to worksites that include seat belts in response to safety concerns. It will also set out six conditions that must be met in order for a worker’s employment to be terminated for cause.
The Biden administration is considering a move to open paths to green cards for agricultural and temporary seasonal migrant workers
“This proposed rule would strengthen protections for H-2A farmworkers who are particularly vulnerable to labor abuses, empowering them to advocate for fair treatment and ensure that their work does not lower labor standards and undermine local farmworkers,” Su said in a statement. . “The Department is committed to protecting all workers, and this proposal would significantly advance those efforts.”
But Republicans say strengthening unions may be unconstitutional and could interfere with farm labor.
“The proposed rule puts a thumb on the scale in favor of labor unions in several ways that exceed the authority of the Department of Labor and are contrary to the intent of Congress,” they say, arguing that the agency does not have the authority to impose mandates.
They also warned that the lists to be submitted to the unions were in fact a “wish list” from the Grand Labor Party.
“The proposed rule additionally requires employers to provide a labor union with a significant amount of personal information about workers upon the union’s request and allows only one week of response time to such a request,” they say. “This information includes workers’ full names, dates of employment, job titles, work site addresses, personal email addresses, personal cell phone numbers, messaging app profile names, home country addresses, and home country phone numbers.|
They also object to including that employers meet certain criteria before terminating an H-2A worker for cause, arguing that it could conflict with the need to terminate the worker for safety reasons.
“The proposed rule is therefore overly burdensome for employers and may be harmful to workers’ interests,” they say.
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They also argue that the limited time to adjust wages after the agency publishes wage rates is “an unnecessary change that would be challenging, if not impossible, for employers to meet.”
“DOL needs to withdraw this proposed rule and go back to the drawing board,” lawmakers say.