Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signing of legislation to encourage construction of badly needed housing for California farm worker families is being praised by the United Farm Workers and UFW Foundation. The bill, AB 1783 by Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) and sponsored by the two organizations, also blocks growers from using state taxpayer funds to help Donald Trump expand the abusive H-2A agricultural guest worker program that frequently replaces U.S. farm workers with foreign guest workers who are mostly men, including those laboring on Trump Vineyards.
“AB 1783 gives California a new tool to build more farm worker housing for families,” says UFW President Teresa Romero. “While federal policy has increasingly sought to tear immigrant farm worker families apart and discriminate against women, AB 1783 will support farm worker families staying together and bend the arc of morality towards supporting women working in the fields. Farm workers thank Assemblymember Rivas, the California Legislature and Gov. Newsom for taking this important step to bring farm worker housing into the 21st century.”
“Recruiters of H-2A guest workers often explicitly exclude women, more than 95 percent of H-2A workers in California fields are men and construction of housing for H-2A workers often consists of barracks-style structures only for males,” says UFW Foundation Executive Director Diana Tellefson Torres. “This bill supports decent quality housing for farm worker families.”
Many farms have surplus land that could be used to build safe and secure housing for farm workers. But the land needs rezoning, which is often blocked by communities that resist farm worker housing. So AB 1783, the Farm Worker Housing Act of 2019, would create a streamlined process under which farm worker housing on land zoned for agricultural uses would only be subject to a ministerial approval process and would not require conditional use permits if it meets certain objective quality standards.
The new law would block any grower or developer from building housing using this more flexible approval mechanism to house federal H-2A guest workers. It would also phase out state funding and support in the form of grants, loans, tax credits or write-downs of land costs to create housing under the H-2A program.
Known as the “Harnessed-2 Abuse” program, the H-2A system is riddled with exploitation and wage theft. Guest workers are harnessed to individual employers who control daily meals, housing, transportation and immigration status. The program discriminates against women and discourages family units. Sponsors and supporters of AB 1783 ask why taxpayers should help pay for housing tied to that kind of discrimination. ###