Farmworker groups are taking legal action against the recent decision not to increase H-2A wage rates. The United Farm Workers (UFW) and the UFW Foundation are suing the Department of Labor (DOL) for freezing wages. Represented by Farmworker Justice and the law firm WilmerHale, the groups are requesting an injunction against a recent DOL decision. Last month the DOL announced that H-2A wages will remain at 2020 rates for the next two years.
“The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Labor are acting to lower farm worker wages while billions of dollars are being spent by USDA to support agricultural employers,” UFW President Teresa Romero said in a press release. “Trump’s goal is to lower wages and make it easier for growers to hire vulnerable and exploitable H-2A workers while also lowering pay for domestic workers.”
The DOL rule locks in payment rates for H-2A workers using the same figure used this year. DOL will adjust wages again in 2023 using the Employment Cost Index. The lawsuit is an attempt to prevent the new wage regulation from taking effect on December 21. It was filed on November 30 in a U.S. District Court in Fresno, California. The farmworker groups are also seeking a permanent injunction to overturn the rule. In the complaint, the groups allege that the wage freeze violates the federal Administrative Procedure Act. The complaint states that California farmworkers will be paid nearly $1 less an hour under the latest DOL rule.
The same farmworker groups also sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture over a decision to cancel the Farm Labor Survey (FLS) and the resulting annual Farm Labor Report. A U.S. District Court judge issued a preliminary injunction against that decision, preventing the survey and report from being canceled. The FLS is what is used by DOL to determine regional average hourly wage rates for farmworkers.