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FCWA STANDS WITH FARMWORKER MEMBERS IN OPPOSING THE FARM WORKFORCE MODERNIZATION ACT OF 2019

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Photo: Farmworker Association of Florida

The FCWA opposes the Farm Workforce Modernization Act because we believe it will set dangerous precedents, divide workers, and ultimately make conditions even more difficult for farmworkers across the country.

Please help us make sure the Farm Workforce Modernization Act does not become law and sign and share our petition urging representatives to oppose the bill.


 

On November 12, 2019, H.R. 5038 – The Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019 was introduced by Representative Zoe Lofgren of California. The bill introduces a process for farmworkers to access permanent residency status and also amends regulations for workers who work in agriculture under the H-2A program.

The Bill passed in the House by a vote of 260-165 on December 11, 2019. It was received in the Senate on December 12, 2019 and was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. Senate committee hearings have not yet been scheduled.

Many of our farmworker members have a long history of organizing with farmworkers across the US and Canada and supporting workers to improve their wages and working conditions. As an Alliance, we believe that regardless of immigration status, all farmworkers deserve dignity, respect, and full protection on the job and in the communities in which their families reside. It is our belief that our movement should be guided by this vision of expanding access to rights and protection for all workers, especially the right to organize. 

This bill moves in the opposite direction. It does not include the right to organize for farmworkers. It excludes many workers from “blue card” status, sets up a very long path to get residency status, and requires farmworkers to continue working in agriculture for up to 8 years to qualify. It expands the H-2A program without providing necessary oversight or adequate protections, and will serve to further divide farm workers against one another based on their immigration status. Many of our farmworker members have the following critiques of the bill:

PATH TO LEGAL STATUS IS LIMITED, COMPLEX AND EXCLUDES MANY CURRENT FARMWORKERS

The bill introduces a complicated process to access residency status that will exclude many current farmworkers and their families. For those workers who would be eligible, the bill requires workers to continue working for a long period (up to 8 more years) in agriculture to qualify. 

THE BILL EXPANDS A FLAWED H-2A PROGRAM 

Many of our farmworker members organize with guestworkers or are seeing increasing numbers of guestworkers enter their regions and sectors and with that an increase in exploitation for both H-2A workers and domestic workers. H-2A workers’ immigration status is tied to one employer and workers are isolated in rural farming locations with little access to support, making it much more challenging to speak out about exploitation. Furthermore, workers in the H-2A temporary foreign agricultural worker program have often paid significant sums to recruiters to obtain jobs, visas, and transportation. This current legislation does not jointly hold employers and recruiters liable for violations. When H-2A workers do report violations, they often face retaliation, including repatriation to their home countries. Despite this, we have seen many H-2A workers and guestworkers courageously come together to expose wage theft, health and safety violations, and other issues in their workplaces. 

The bill as negotiated increases some limited protections for H-2A workers, but it also weakens other hard fought protections that are already in place, such as a 1-year freeze of the Adverse Effect Wage Rate. As negotiated, the current bill expands an exploitative program without the serious overhaul and oversight of the program that is needed. We believe we should strongly oppose employers using immigration laws to exploit and divide workers. Both guest workers and undocumented workers should have access to permanent status. 

Earlier this year, the House of Representatives added a rider (section 533) to an appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security (H.R. 3931) that if approved would expand the H-2A program to year-round work, with no reforms made to the program. This is a direct response to lobbying from agricultural employers, especially the dairy industry, who for years have been pushing for expansion of the program. Some advocates are suggesting that H.R. 5038 would counteract and replace this harmful rider. It is our view that H.R. 5038 is simply not strong enough to do so and we should oppose any legislation that does not provide stronger rights on the job for farmworkers and guestworkers and oversight over their conditions. 

The current proposed changes only reinforce the significant power imbalance between employers and workers. We strongly stand against any system of indentured servitude and believe all agricultural labourers should be treated with fairness and dignity and no worker should be disposable to serve the interests of the agricultural industry. 

REQUIRING E-VERIFY IN AGRICULTURE WILL HURT FARMWORKERS AND SETS UP A DANGEROUS PRECEDENT

E-Verify is a web-based system that allows enrolled employers to confirm the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. For most employers, E-Verify is voluntary and currently, there are no entire industries that are required under law to use E-Verify.  E-Verify unduly places a heavier burden on workers than on growers to comply and leaves workers vulnerable to fraud. We strongly oppose the collection of data that could one day be used to criminalize workers. Beyond the incredibly harmful impact this will have on farmworkers, granting this concession sets up a very harmful precedent for other immigration reform measures in the future. 

INJURED FARMWORKERS ARE EXCLUDED

Agriculture is one of the most dangerous industries for workers, yet this bill will exclude the hundreds of thousands of undocumented farmworkers who have been injured on the job and who will therefore not qualify for residency status. While the bill contains some language regarding workplace safety and prevention of sexual harassment, there is no mechanism or funding in place for tracking and enforcement, nor is there any language around provision of healthcare. The bill does not address how guestworkers are often repatriated and blacklisted after they are injured. 

Finally, as our members have noted, there is no provision for the right to strike, the right to join a union, or the right to bargain collectively as a counterbalance to employers’ control over workers. 

For all of these reasons, the FCWA opposes the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. We call on our allies to join us in taking action to ensure this bill does not pass. 

  1. Sign and share our petition urging representatives to oppose FWMA.
  2. Share our message that #FarmworkersDeserveBetter in your networks.

 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Download the FCWA’s full statement on FWMA here:

Read statement’s from our members and from other allies on the harmful impact of FWMA:

CATA

Community to Community Development

Familias Unidas por la Justicia

Farmworker Association of Florida

UFCW

 

 

Support Striking Meatpackers at Olymel!

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On Day One of Food Workers Rising, we are asking you to support 350 striking food workers in Princeville Quebec!

Meatpacking workers at Olymel have been on strike since October 29. The Quebec-based company is the largest hog producer in Canada. Workers at the Princeville Olymel plant took a $5.40 paycut in 2005 to help the company keep it’s plant doors open. But workers have not seen a fair share of Olymel’s record profits since then and are calling for a fair raise. 

TAKE ACTION

Meat processing is one of the most difficult and dangerous jobs in the food industry. Can you support the 350 Olymel striking workers by making a call to Olymel CEO today? 

Call Olymel’s head office at: 1 800 361-7990 EXT 3123

Or send a message to the company here: 

Sample message:

“I am calling to support the striking Olymel workers in Princeville. They work hard to make Olymel profitable and deserve a fair wage.”

The 350 striking workers are members of the Federation of Commerce (FC-CSN), one of our newest FCWA members. Federation of Commerce represents 28,000 workers including those employed at grocery stores, warehouses, meatpacking and food processing across the province of Quebec.

Help us get the word on social media to support striking Olymel workers and stay tuned for Day 2 of Food Workers Rising!

Support Grocery Workers – One job should be enough

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Support grocery workers, not Wall Street
Corporate grocery stores are making record profits but refuse to provide workers enough pay or hours to support themselves or their families. Sign this petition to support grocery workers!

Nobody should work 2 or 3 jobs and not be able to afford housing, food, and basic healthcare. Especially when the CEO of Ralphs-Kroger Co. makes 547 times what the average worker earns in a year. As shoppers, let’s join together with workers to fight for what’s fair.

International Food Workers Week: November 13-19, 2016

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International Food Workers Week (IFWW) is held annually close to the week of Thanksgiving to engage the public about the importance of food workers and to move people to take action in support of the workers. Events or actions around the U.S. are organized by the FCWA, member groups, and allies.

During IFWW, on November 14, we are releasing a new report No Piece of the Pie: U.S. Food Workers in 2016. This update from our original report The Hands That Feed Us in 2012 will provide the most recent data on food workers and their wages and working conditions, highlights interviews with 20 workers throughout the food system, and shares solutions to addressing the problems they face.

Organize an event or action in your city! You can submit your event info here. Stay tuned for a list of actions and events taking place that week.

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