WASHINGTON – Today, Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Workforce Protections Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Kiley (R-CA) sent a letter to Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su regarding serious delays in the processing of H-2A applications. The letter comes following disturbing quotes from DOL likening America’s agriculture workers to slave laborers.
In the letter, the Members write:“It has come to the Committee on Education and the Workforce’s (Committee) attention that employers applying for labor certifications at the Department of Labor (DOL) for H-2A agricultural workers are facing substantial delays. These delays can be tremendously harmful for American agriculture. The arrival of workers can be delayed by weeks, causing inefficiencies and supply chain disruptions. … The planting and harvesting windows offer only a short amount of time to meet the season’s needs. Our understanding is that this worsening problem is caused by unnecessary and avoidable delays at DOL.”
The letter continues: “[A May 15] letter details disturbing quotes from Mike Rios, Regional Agriculture Enforcement Coordinator at DOL’s Wage and Hour Division, published in an article by a left-of-center nonprofit news outlet. The article quotes Rios as saying, ‘[Y]ou can see that the H-2A program literally is the purchase of humans to perform difficult work under terrible conditions, sometimes including subhuman living conditions.’ He is also quoted as saying, ‘You can throw a rock and hit a violation in the agricultural industry.’ The article further states, ‘Rios said wage theft is literally ‘baked into’ how the program operates.’ The quotes are disturbing and yet puzzling because the laws and regulations that DOL is supposed to enforce prohibit these conditions.”
The members conclude by asking several questions about how DOL is addressing H-2A processing delays:
What has caused delays at DOL in processing H-2A applications?
What steps has DOL taken to address the delays that are harming agricultural employers and agriculture in the United States?
Will DOL be taking any additional steps to address H-2A application processing delays?