Important Alert: Solis Moves to Suspend New H2A Regulations

An important announcement for all H2A program users.  Hours after being sworn in on Friday, new Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis announces a proposed suspension of new H2A regulations that were implemented in January of 2009.  The following articles address the proposed suspension.  The proposed suspension will be open to public comment for 10 days.  It is not apparent at this time where the public should submit their comments.  The news release available at USDOL’s website follows the articles below.

Obama suspends change made to farmworker rule

Bush had eased restrictions on hiring foreigners
By Holly Rosenkrantz
BLOOMBERG
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 03.14.2009
The Obama administration suspended a rule issued at the end of the Bush presidency that made it easier for U.S. employers to hire foreign farmworkers.
The Bush rule eliminated some restrictions on the H-2A program that allows farmers to hire workers from other countries on a temporary basis for seasonal field jobs they find that U.S. workers won’t do.
After President George W. Bush failed to pass immigration reform in 2007, his administration pursued a change in the H-2A program. The new regulation became final Jan. 17, three days before President Obama was inaugurated.
The Bush rule eased the regulatory burden employers face to prove they tried to recruit Americans first, and limited how much employers have to reimburse foreign workers for the cost of going home. It eliminated the duplication among federal and states agencies processing applications and revised the wage formula.
Erik Nicholson, a vice president of the United Farm Workers, said the Bush plan would damage wages and working conditions. The Bush administration had said it would reduce the regulatory work required of companies trying to hire farmworkers.
“Suspending the rule would allow the department to review and reconsider the regulation,” Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said in a written statement.
During the nine-month suspension period for the rule, the Labor Department will continue to accept and process H-2A applications.

Labor Secretary Solis Suspends Last-Minute Bush Rule Regarding Foreign Farm Workers
Sunday, March 15, 2009      

      

Migrant Worker Manuel R. Lopez (photo: Noelle M. Steele, Greenfied, Indiana Daily Reporter)

One week before Christmas, the Bush administration changed the rules to make it easier and cheaper for agricultural businesses to employ temporary foreign workers. On Friday, within hours of being sworn in as Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis announced that she would suspend implementation of the Bush regulations for nine months, pending ten days of open comment from the public. The Bush rules went into effect three days before President Bush left office.

 
The issue pits growers and agribusiness against farm workers and labor unions. The Bush rules reduce wages and travel reimbursements for many farm workers and allow growers to self-certify guest workers as qualified. Erik Nicholson, vice president of the United Farm Workers, called the Bush rules “some of the worst setbacks for farm workers in decades.” Solis herself had spoken out against the regulations while she was a member of the House of Representatives.
 
Labor Secretary Proposes Suspending Farm Rules (by Steven Greenhouse, New York Times)
Summary of AgJOBS Bill (by Bill Beardall, Equal Justice Center)

ETA News Release: [03/13/2009]
Contact Name: Peggy Abrahamson or Suzy Bohnert
Phone Number: (202) 693-7909 or x 4665 
Release Number: 09-0243-NAT

U.S. Department of Labor proposes to suspend H-2A rule

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) today announced the proposed suspension for nine months of a final rule implementing changes to the H-2A program, which allows U.S. agricultural businesses to employ foreign workers in temporary or seasonal agricultural jobs. The department’s proposed action is open for public comment for 10 days.

“Because many stakeholders have raised concerns about the H-2A regulations, this proposed suspension is the prudent and responsible action to take,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “Suspending the rule would allow the department to review and reconsider the regulation, while minimizing disruption to state workforce agencies, employers and workers.”

The proposed suspension of the final rule will appear in the Federal Register on March 17. The final rule appeared in the Federal Register on Dec. 18, 2008, and took effect on Jan. 17, 2009.

The H-2A nonimmigrant program is designed to provide agricultural businesses with short-term foreign agricultural labor when there are not enough domestic workers. Receiving an H-2A labor certification is the first step in the employment-based immigration process to work on a farm.

In 2008, the department granted North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida the largest numbers of H-2A labor certifications.

The Labor Department’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification will continue to accept and process H-2A applications during the proposed suspension period. Any final action on today’s proposed suspension will appear in a future Federal Register notice.

 

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