Farmworkers sue to stop cancellation of wage survey
The United Farm Workers and the UFW Foundation this week filed a federal lawsuit requesting a temporary restraining order to stop the Trump administration from cancelling the Farm Labor Survey, which UFW says provides crucial information used by the Labor Department to set the wage rates of tens of thousands of farmworkers under the H-2A program.
Farmworker Justice is co-counsel for the plaintiffs.
The case is filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. The defendants include the Agriculture Department and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
The lawsuit asks the court to hold that the defendants violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by cancelling the Farm Labor Survey and refusing to publish the annual Farm Labor Report.
It claims that the defendants violated the APA’s requirement of public rulemaking procedures before making substantive changes in agency policies and programs and the law’s prohibition against arbitrary and capricious conduct.
The Farm Labor Survey has been conducted for over 100 years.
“Massive wage cuts for essential workers cultivating and harvesting our fruits and vegetables during this pandemic are unconscionable,” said Bruce Goldstein, president of Farmworker Justice.
“The H-2A agricultural guestworker program has modest protections against depressing wage rates of U.S. farmworkers and against exploitation of foreign citizens hired as agricultural guestworkers.
“The USDA’s sudden cancellation of the Farm Labor Survey of employers that sets the principal H-2A wage protection is an end-run around changing the H-2A regulations in a cruel effort to slash farmworkers’ wages,” he added.
Farmworkers are among the lowest-paid workers in the U.S. and rarely receive fringe benefits.