Ag and Rural Caucus Call To Meeting, April 2022
Thursday, Apr 21, 2022 06:30 PM Pacific Time https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87207788906?pwd=c1RocDQra0JMQ1I5RWswYS9zKzVaZz09 Meeting ID: 872 0778 8906 Passcode: 467257 +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
|Ag Labor: H2A and Immigration|
Mike Gempler, Grower’s League
Jon DeVaney, Washington State Fruit Growers Association
Elizabeth Strater, United Farm Workers
Check Google for “swot” and up comes a muscular definition: Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat. “Study assiduously” also comes up. Here, let’s generously take “swot” to be an old-fashioned way to say “study up”.
It is arcane, granted, but it is an introduction to two pieces laying out context for Thursday’s meeting on Ag Labor: H2A and Immigration.
The first is a piece on H2A by Joel Donofrio in the Yakima Herald Tribune featuring Jon DeVaney, one of our presenters. It is especially good setting out questions about the H2A program.
The second article from The Hill makes immigration reform appropriately technical but also perhaps within reach in the Senate. Last week I was skeptical about progress in this congress. This article sees some light.
Join in Thursday evening. Invite your friends.
Immigration reform has passed the U.S. Senate. In 2013. With Republican votes. 68-32 in fact. Architects were the Gang of Eight, including John McCain, Linsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Jeff Flake.
And immigration reform passed the House last year, 247-174, including 30 Republicans who voted for it. Even with the necessary legislative compromises, the United Farmworkers endorsed the bill, HR 1603.
The Senate’s Gang of Eight is still in place except for McCain and Flake but the outlook is dim for any Senate action on immigration legislation.
What has last passed both the House and Senate was the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, with emphasis on “control”. The Act made it illegal to hire undocumented labor. It made criminals out of willing labor and willing employers, with labor giving up any bargaining leverage.
It is easy to imagine that immigration legislation would take H2A off the table. Probably not. HR 1603 or similar reforms “give a path to immigration status for undocumented farmworkers.” This is important but it probably does not increase the ag workforce and maybe even permit undocumented labor to move out of agriculture.
Our presenters will help us understand these dynamics of ag labor and evaluate the operation of the ag labor market.
Ag Labor: H2A and Immigration
Our April meeting – moved back to a Thursday evening – takes up Ag Labor. We will review H2A and how it works for growers, H2A labor, and domestic labor.
How does a grower contract with H2A workers? What does it cost the grower…housing, transportation, hourly rates, any benefits? How are H2A hourly rates set? What is the translation from piece-work rates to hourly rates?
What is the effect on full-time workers? Is there an escalator effect? Or does flooding the labor market with short-term workers depress expectations of wage and benefit gains? Maybe full-time workers are protected by rules minimizing wage competition?
Our guests are Mike Gempler of the Grower’s League, Jon DeVaney of the Washington State Tree Fruit Association, and Elizabeth Strater from the United Farm Workers. Mike is an ARC veteran with at least three appearances. Jon joined Mike in our Yakima meeting several years ago, And Elizabeth and the UFW bring the important labor voice to the conversation.
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