United Farm Workers President Arturo S. Rodriguez issued the following statement today (July 18, 2017) from the union’s Keene, Calif. headquarters after the House Appropriations Committee voted to expand the H-2A agricultural guest worker program to the dairy industry:
How can House Republicans vote to expand the deeply flawed H-2A agricultural guest worker program into an industry for which it was not designed—an industry where many U.S. dairy workers died gruesome deaths by drowning in manure ponds last year because too many dairies deny American workers basic labor protections?
By offering such an amendment, the House GOP ignores a workable solution to the agricultural industry’s labor problems in HR 2690, by U.S. Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL ), which would give experienced farm workers presently laboring on U.S. farms the chance to legally remain working in agriculture rather than importing substantial numbers of additional guest workers from outside the country. HR 2690, with 53 co-sponsors, would resolve growers’ labor needs by letting domestic farm workers who are undocumented earn legal status.
We are stunned Reps. Pete Aguilar (D-CA) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX) voted for the amendment authored by Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA). Only employers hiring seasonal farm workers have been eligible under the long-existing H-2A program on the assumption that such workers are more difficult to find. H-2A visas have not been available for dairies because most of the jobs they offer are year-round. That is why the House Republican amendment is unprecedented. The H-2A program itself has also been beset by abuses both of imported guest workers and U.S. farm workers who have displaced despite assurances that American workers have first pick at those jobs.