Pro-Employee Groups Slam Democrats’ Amnesty Deal with Agriculture Industry

ILE - In this Friday, July 27, 2012, file photo, workers harvest wild blueberries at the Ridgeberry Farm in Appleton, Maine. Maine's governor and members of its blueberry industry fear losing growers due to a depression in prices that has made growing the beloved crop a less reliable way to …
AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and several other left-wing, anti-poverty groups are opposing the Democrats’ amnesty-for-cheap-labor deal, which faces a vote in the House today.

The amnesty legislation, dubbed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, is designed to get support from agriculture employers by offering a huge wave of cheap H-2A visa workers to replace the 1.5 million illegal migrants who would be amnestied and given citizenship by the deal. The imported cheap H-2A workers are also expected to replace Americans in many jobs throughout the sector.

The Democrats’ corporatist deal, H.R. 5058, is backed by many agriculture trade groups and by around 30 GOP legislators.

“UFCW is concerned that the Farm Workforce Modernization Act will expand the length of the farm worker visa from seasonal to year-round and weaken the requirements to hire American workers,” says the December 8 letter sent to Democrat leaders by the UFCW’s director of legislative affairs. The letter continues:

Currently, the H-2A program is for temporary or seasonal work and cannot be used to meet employers’ year-round agricultural labor needs. Allowing year-round visas would increase the number of employers that might consider using the program and decrease wages for workers in other sectors. … We are also concerned that this bill will result in pay cuts for workers. … Unfortunately, changes to how the [Adverse Effect Wage Rate] is calculated under this bill would lower wages for most H-2A workers, depressing wages for all farmworkers.

UFCW opposes the exploitation of migrant workers and supports a path to citizenship for farmworkers in this country and that position remains unchanged. However, we are concerned hat the farm Farm Workforce Moderation Act sets up a framework that will harm agricultural workers and workers in neighboring industries such as meat and poultry processing.

The amnesty side of the deal is being opposed by GOP leaders in the House, even as they support the widespread use of the H-2A visa workers in the agricultural economy.

Business and investor groups prefer the cheap H-2A visa workers to the alternative policy of developing labor-saving machinery, or of competing with other employers to hire Americans at fair-market rates.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump’s deputies said he would veto the Democrats’ pending drug bill — but they did not threaten to veto the Democrats’ amnesty for at least one million illegals. “It is frankly astounding that the White House did not issue a veto threat on H.R. 5038,”  a Capitol Hill source told Breitbart News, adding:

This bill betrays the President’s longstanding desire to encourage American employers – including agriculture – to hire American workers. Worse, this bill amnesties over a million illegal aliens. President Trump won the presidency in no small part because he understands the American people want no part of this. Today the White House cared more about ruffling feathers in the agribusiness community rather than taking a hard line on behalf of the voters he needs for a second term.

The H-2A program is also being slammed by The Progressive:

With little fanfare—even as the Trump Administration cracks down on immigrant deportation and threatens DACA—use of the program has exploded. The program has ballooned from 139,832 visas in 2015 to 257,667 in 2019. In 1996, it issued just 11,000 visas.

The Trump Administration is now looking to use executive action to push rule changes aimed at “modernizing the H-2A program and eliminating inefficiencies.” John Bauknecht from United Migrant Opportunity Services warned these changes would allow employers to self-inspect living conditions, make major changes to job terms in the middle of the farm season, and change the hiring process in such a way that sharply reduces employers’ current obligation to recruit U.S. workers.

The rule changes would also lower workers’ wages, expand the program to other industries, and shift costs for transportation—currently paid by employers—onto workers, again risking the creation of an indentured worker system. The changes were filed in July and received public comment in September.

A “compromise” is now being considered in Congress, but the proposal, known as the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019, maintains core regressive elements of the [2019] H-2C legislation. Crucially, it also creates new tools of worker coercion.

The labor-for-amnesty deal is a crony-capitalist giveaway, says a new video from the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which argues that the agricultural investors should hire Americans before importing more workers:

Exploitation, greed, The status quo. This is the story of the American farm lobby and their quest for Cheap foreign labor,” says a FAIR video, which continues:

They will do just about anything to get it, including sabotaging immigration reform at the expense of all Americans.
Here’s what you need to know. F or years Americans across the country have been concerned about the situation at our nation’s borders. But despite promise after promise by politicians on both sides, nothing changes. For decades government commissions have laid out the best way to solve the problem: Interior enforcement, E-Verify, no amnesty, no green cards for lawbreakers, and a reliance on American workers to get the jobs done. But big agriculture has different plans.

Now, these aren’t your small family farms. We’re talking about a huge mega-corporation. For 50 years, American voters have told these corporations to either use machinery for harvesting or find American workers. Yet big agriculture continues to demand and get a steady flow of foreign workers, usually here illegally.

You see, Big Ag loves illegal workers because they work cheap, hard, and scared. Due to their status, they cannot demand [legal protections]. They just do the work and disappear into our cities, schools, hospitals, and communities, only to be replaced by the next group of illegal workers.

Faced with proposals to stop this cycle once and for all, Big Ag reacts with false cries about worker shortage and then insists its very survival hinges on an endless supply of cheap labor. And the result — Big Ag has killed one immigration reform bill after another.

There was 2007, then 2013, then 2017. Big Ag even stopped Congress from getting a border enforcement bill through in President Trump’s first term.

And that brings us to today and the proposed Farm Workforce Modernization Act.

Okay, the mega-farms finally say, we will use E-Verify. That sounds good, right, but there’s a catch.

How about a fraud-ridden amnesty for 1.5 million illegal aliens. How about a massive expansion of a guest worker program that would literally bind immigrants to farms for ten years before getting a green card, and they can’t leave without losing their chance at a green card. That’s not just cheap labor — it is indentured servitude.

It’s unethical, un-American exploitation, plain and simple. Big Agriculture has had 50 years to get its act together. Fifty years to find alternative ways to harvest crops. Fifty years to do it the right way. But they’ll never change until Congress cuts off their endless supply of cheap foreign labor.

It is time to end big Agriculture’s foreign-labor addiction. It’s time for Big Ag to hire Americans and protect American prosperity. It is time for them to stop exploiting vulnerable foreign workers for profit.

Let’s stop the so-called Workforce Modernization Act. Support E-Verify. End the exploitation of cheap labor, and hold Big Ag accountable once-and-for-all.

Breitbart News has extensively covered the dispute amid near-total silence from established media outlets, such as the Washington Post and the New York Times.

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