For years, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee has raised the alarm on the extreme vulnerabilities perpetuated within the H2-A system, including the widespread corruption within the recruitment system, the power imbalance created by tying workers’ immigration status to a single employer, and the rise of unscrupulous farm labor contractors, who are perpetuators of the most egregious violations.
The Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security have recently proposed changes to the H2-A program to strengthen worker protections and lessen vulnerabilities. We applaud the U.S. government’s efforts, but we must recognize where these policy measures fall short. As the largest union composed of H2-A workers, our collective bargaining agreement has time and time again protected workers and created a system that is worker centered.
“We support and call on our supporters and allies to stand with us in supporting the proposed changes from the federal government. At FLOC we understand how to make the H2-A system work for workers, and we want these protections for all our brothers and sisters in the fields. But without the right to collective bargaining, these changes fall short.” FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez spoke on the proposed changes.
At FLOC, we have been organizing H2A workers for decades. Our collective bargaining agreement directly combats these vulnerabilities. Within our union contract, some of the rights workers are guaranteed include:
- The right to return. This directly diminishes the power dynamic between the employer and worker, there is no longer a fear among workers that if they report abuse, they will lose their spot for the next season.
- The right to transfer farms. Through partnering with the North Carolina Growers Association (NCGA), workers can move farms if there is an issue once they arrive. They are not tied to a single employer, but rather have access to over 600 farms.
- Strong and swift grievance mechanisms. If there is an issue, our grievance mechanism ensures that it is resolved within the growing season. Traditional methods for resolving labor disputes are arduous and take months if not years to conclude, long after workers return to their country of origin.
- Recruitment oversight. Our office in Monterrey, Mexico ensures that there is no fraudulent recruitment, and we work closely with the NCGA and U.S. consulate to reduce corruption with third party recruiters.
The proposed changes by both the DOL and DHS are huge steps in the right direction, and we are asking our supporters to make these changes a reality by commenting in support of the changes during the call for public comment.
Make a statement of support for the Department of Labor changes here: Federal Register :: Improving Protections for Workers in Temporary Agricultural Employment in the United States Comments must be submitted by November 14th.
Make a statement of support for the Department of Homeland Security changes here: https://www.regulations.gov/document/USCIS-2023-0012-0001 Comments must be submitted by November 20th.