- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 13, 2009



Nicholas C. Geale’s column “Back to indentured servitude” (Opinion, Sunday) fails to acknowledge the history of exploitation and abuse in our nation’s agricultural guest-worker program and how the George W. Bush administration’s midnight changes gutted the few worker protections the program contained.

While doing nothing to address the problem of the hundreds of thousands of undocumented workers already here performing agricultural work, the Bush administration’s changes to the H-2A agricultural guest-worker program create a huge, abusive new guest-worker program. Wages, housing, recruitment and labor protections for American workers are all greatly reduced under the Bush administration’s H-2A program. So is government oversight.

Mr. Geale’s commentary is misleading about the program’s wage rates and worker protections. He argues that the Bush administration’s changes “set minimum wages according to local market rates so the temporary workers can take care of their families.” However, the Bush changes actually slash wage rates for most farmworkers, domestic and foreign alike, using a fundamentally flawed statistical analysis.

A better way to address the agricultural labor crisis already exists in the bipartisan labor-management compromise bill called AgJOBS (the Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits and Security Act). AgJOBS would reform the H-2A program in more balanced and effective ways while also allowing currently undocumented farmworkers with a demonstrated history of work experience in agriculture to come forward, pay fines and fees, meet admissibility requirements and earn a pathway to legal residency in exchange for continuing to work in agriculture for a specified period of time.

The Bush administration’s changes to the H-2A guest-worker program are morally reprehensible and illegal. The Department of Labor should reverse the changes as soon as possible.


Executive director

Farmworker Justice


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