Republicans Seek To Roll Back Guestworker Protections


With anti-immigration reform sweeping the states, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) has suggested making significant changes to the guest-worker program, triggering opposition from worker rights group like the Southern Poverty Law Center.

HR 2847 would replace the H-2A temporary agricultural visa program with a new guest worker program. Among the concerns detailed by the SPLC are the following:

•    The American Specialty Agriculture Act significantly reduces farmworkers’ wages. Currently, the U.S. Department of Labor provides an “Adverse Effect Wage Rate” to offset the negative impact an influx of guestworkers may have on the wages of U.S. workers. This legislation would allow growers to pay only the greater of the prevailing wage or the minimum wage – resulting in significantly lower wages for U.S. workers and guestworkers.

•    It leaves guestworkers holding the bag on transportation, recruitment and visa costs. Currently, an H-2A guestworker’s recruitment, visa and inbound transportation costs must be reimbursed by the grower during the first workweek. This legislation would require growers to reimburse guestworkers for their transportation costs only after the worker completes half of the contract. This means guestworkers who are not reimbursed immediately are still paying interest on the loans they may have used to cover these expenses. That debt also creates a disincentive for guestworkers to leave jobs where they face abusive working conditions.

•    It effectively eliminates guestworkers’ access to counsel and meaningful legal remedies. The legislation would only allow guestworkers access to federally funded Legal Services attorneys for disputes related to employer-provided housing. Mandatory arbitration would be required to settle all other disputes.

•    It hurts U.S. workers. The legislation effectively closes off farm work opportunities to U.S. workers by limiting circulation of the job announcements, closing off the opportunity U.S. workers have to seek employment once the work has begun, and expanding the guestworker program to non-seasonal and non-temporary work.

•    It requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture to enforce labor standards for guestworkers – standards the department has no experience enforcing. The bill strips the Department of Labor of its authority to enforce labor standards and U.S. worker recruitment requirements in the H-2C program. It requires the Department of Agriculture to take over all enforcement responsibilities for the H-2C program. This shift places these responsibilities with a federal agency traditionally allied with agribusiness interests and no experience enforcing labor standards.

H-2A is a program in need of desperate overhaul, a point that both Republicans and Democrats agree on. But that overhaul cannot come at the expense of the already limited protections currently offered to those workers. Contact your representatives in Congress and tell them to oppose HR 2847.

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Photo from nicsarebi via flickr.


Ernest R.
Ernest R5 years ago

The good news is that we finally hear about the possibility of farm workers that are not illegal. Lets have an end to the idiots that say we can't afford vegetables without illegals to pick them. It may be too late if vrobots wipe out the jobs for yet another group of workers.

Vince D.
Vince D5 years ago

Well, we'll see what happens HR 2885 that passed the judicial committee today. We might actually open up 7 million jobs to American workers, something we all should applaud. (But many won't.)

Brian M.
Past Member 5 years ago

It is as I have always suspected. The GOP wants to undo the Emancipation Proclamation that their man, Lincoln, issued; then they want to reinstate slavery.

Brian M.
Past Member 5 years ago

It is as I have always suspected. The GOP wants to undo the Emancipation Proclamation that their man, Lincoln, issued; then they want to reinstate slavery.

Andrew Carvin
Andrew Carvin5 years ago

Republicans = People who want to rape you, kill you, rape your corpse, make a goblet out of your skull, and use it to serve baby blood to their rich masters.

Democrats have made good on some of their promises, and continue to advocate for the middle/poor classes.


bob m.
bob m5 years ago

Aw ; that feels better......our daily racist crap on whitey.

Jayna W.
Jayna W5 years ago

The Republicans ought to roll back protections for corporations, businesses and individuals who hire illegal aliens; call them guestworkers or undocumented workers or by another other politically correct name. If law enforcement and the Justice Department did not turn a blind eye to illegal aliens taking American jobs and American companies that hire them, we would all be employed again. Think about it! What a way to end unemployment in the United States!

Tim Cheung
Tim C5 years ago


Tim Cheung
Tim C5 years ago


Igor M.
Igor m5 years ago


I am with you. It is all classical corporate greed.
GOP just happens to be the legal handles for all home grown natural greed.

That is their way to circumvent the unions and the American workforce, all-together. Profits up; that is all they care about.

Once they pulled through the guest workers program which happened not yesterday, as we all know, they are trying to cut spending there, too. Double-dipping, are we?

No, really, let them and they will put those cork helmets back on and grab the whips. Incredible... Where are we? What is the year? 1800-ish?