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Trump Administration Plan ‘Would Cut Pay For Essential’ Farm Workers - U.S. Agriculture Department’s Decision To ‘Suspend’ A Farm Labor Survey ‘Could Lead To Lower’ Minimum Wages In The Fields

Published Friday, October 9, 2020
by Dave Jamieson/The Huffington Post
Trump Administration Plan ‘Would Cut Pay For Essential’ Farm Workers - U.S. Agriculture Department’s Decision To ‘Suspend’ A Farm Labor Survey ‘Could Lead To Lower’ Minimum Wages In The Fields

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - The Low-Wage Farm Workers who’ve put food on America’s dinner tables throughout the coronavirus Pandemic could soon see a pay cut courtesy of the Trump Administration as the U.S. Department of Agriculture is moving to phase out a quarterly survey that helps determine wage rates on farms that use the H-2A Guest Worker Program.

The pay rate comes from a survey known as the Adverse Effect Wage Rate, or AEWR.

It varies by region and is meant to reflect the prevailing wage farms are offering.

In most situations, H-2A employers have to pay workers according to the AEWR, the State Minimum Wage or the Federal Minimum Wage - whichever is highest.

The idea is to keep farmers from paying Guest Workers lower rates than they would pay Americans to do the same job. 

AEWRs range from $11 to $16 this year, whereas the Federal Minimum Wage is still just $7.25 per hour.

The AEWR is usually the highest of the possible rates, except in areas with robust local minimum wages, like California.

That may help explain why growers aren’t huge fans of it

A recent analysis by the libertarian Cato Institute found that the difference between the AEWR rate and the Minimum Wage in each state averages 57%

If the Trump Administration suspends collecting data for the AEWR without another plan in place, many farms would be allowed to pay lower wages to Field Workers as early as next year. 

Labor groups are warning that such a move would depress income for Foreign Workers and U.S. citizens alike.

Farms that use the H-2A Program are required to pay at or above those wages - not just to the visa holders, but to U.S. Workers employed in similar roles.

Bruce Goldstein, President of the Advocacy Group Farmworker Justice, said poor Guest Workers from Mexico and other countries are paid so little back home that they will accept any wage in the U.S.

By pushing the legally required minimum wages lower, he said the U.S. Agriculture Department could end up displacing U.S. Workers. 

“We’re talking about a couple hundred thousand Farm Workers ‘potentially affected by this,’ both U.S.-born and Guest Workers,” Goldstein said. “Wages ‘are already low and this would allow them to be even lower.’  It ‘undermines the whole point of the protections in the law.’”

To Continue Reading This Labor News Report, Go To: www.huffpost.com/entry/trump-administration-plan-would-cut-pay-for-essential-farm-workers-during-pandemic_n_5f777415c5b64b480aad834b

 

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