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New rules for foreign farmworkers

John Dimsdale Dec 12, 2008
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New rules for foreign farmworkers

John Dimsdale Dec 12, 2008
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TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: The Labor Department’s come out with new temporary farmworker regulations. But the rules go into effect four days before the Bush administration leaves office. Critics say it’ll bolster the replacement of the American worker. Here’s Marketplace’s John Dimsdale.


John Dimsdale: The government’s H-2A visa program allows farmers to hire a limited number of temporary foreign laborers when American workers are not available. The Labor Department says the new regulations streamline the visa application process while protecting wages and working conditions.

But the AFL-CIO’s Sonia Ramirez says the rules will cut already low salaries for migrant farmworkers.

Sonia Ramirez: By allowing H-2A guest workers to earn less money than they currently earn, as well as to force U.S. workers in an unfair competition for lower wages against these H-2A workers, all farmworkers are affected negatively in terms of their wages.

But Paul Schlegel with the American Farm Bureau says the new rules tie wage rates more accurately to prevailing market-based salaries for temporary farmworkers.

Paul Schlegel: We consider the existing wage inflated, so this is much closer to reality.

Critics hope Congress or the incoming Obama administration will reverse the new rules as early next year.

In Washington I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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