Chronology of Farm Worker Legalization Agreement
Between United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO and Leaders of the Agricultural Industry
1970s-1990s: Repeated attempts are made by the agricultural industry to expand the existing H-2A guest worker program on terms that would be more favorable to growers. They are turned back because of opposition from labor and Latino groups.
December 1999: U.S. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) asks the United Farm Workers if it would be willing to sit down and discuss with industry representatives the UFW’s desire to allow undocumented farm workers to adjust their immigration status in return for considering grower desires for changes in the operation of the H-2A program. Up until then, the UFW had sternly opposed industry-sponsored legislation and had urged elimination of the guest worker program.
March-September 2000: The UFW and the agricultural industry engage in long and difficult negotiations over a new approach to legalization of undocumented workers and guest workers.
September 2000: Both sides agree on a brand new concept for compromise legislation that would let undocumented farm workers and their immediately family members in this country earn legal status by continuing to work in agriculture. It would also provide procedural changes making it easier for growers to request guest workers while preserving labor protections and the generally higher wages enjoyed under current law by H-2A workers. In addition, the compromise proposal would cover H-2A workers for the first
time under the Agricultural Workers Protection Act, which allows farm workers to go to federal court to enforce terms and conditions of employment agreed to by their employer.
December 2000: In the waning days of the lame duck session of Congress, the compromise legislation negotiated by the UFW and the industry is backed by bipartisan leaders from both houses of Congress. Still, Congress adjourns before it is enacted.
May-June 2001: The UFW and the agricultural industry introduce separate competing bills dealing with the issues of farm worker legalization and changes in the H-2A program, by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. Berman, and Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), respectively.
Sept. 11, 2001: The terrorist attacks on the United States place the immigration reform issue on the back burner.
2002: UFW and industry representatives continue to talk. Agreement stalls over the issue of the special higher wage rate paid to H-2A workers and their right to use federal courts to enforce the terms of their employment.
July-early September 2003: Both sides prepare to reintroduce their own competing bills.
September 2003: Lawmakers make one last bipartisan appeal to the parties (the growers and the UFW) to hammer out an agreement on the remaining issues. The parties agree to give undocumented farm workers the opportunity to adjust their legal status by continuing to work in agriculture for a specified period of time. In addition, the agreement would freeze the wages of H-2A workers for the first three years under the legislation at the 2002 wage-rate level and provide for a congressional study to determine appropriate future wage rates. Lastly, procedural changes are made in the H-2A program so it is easier for growers to use it; and H-2A workers are granted for the first time the right to sue in federal court if the terms and conditions of their employment contract are violated. While the H-2A workers would still not be covered by the federal Agricultural Workers Protection Act, which covers U.S. citizens and permanent residents, future H-2A workers would have greater ability under law than before to assert their rights.
Summer 2004: The AgJobs bill is cosponsored by 63 U.S. senators, including half the Republicans. More than 400 organizations have endorsed the joint UFW-grower-sponsored legislation. The White House prevents a floor vote on AgJobs, even though it has support from a filibuster-proof majority of senators.
February 10, 2005: With the start of a new session of Congress, AgJobs is reintroduced with news conferences on Capitol Hill and at eight farm worker events in California, Texas and Washington state. UFW President Arturo Rodriguez joins grower leaders and principal AgJobs authors U.S. Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) and Reps. Chris Cannon (R-Utah) and Howard Berman (D-Calif.) at a Washington, D.C. news conference. Meanwhile, UFW leaders and members will herald the premiere of the 2005 AgJobs bill with eight events in three states.