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“The discovery of agriculture was the first big step toward a civilized life.”

— Arthur Keith

NCAE News, Legal/Technical & Other Employer Issues:

A Mississippi civil rights attorney says it could be a year or more before a lawsuit brought by black farmers against an employer is heard in court.

The area’s largest fruit producer will pay $3 million in a settlement with more than 10,000 visiting agricultural workers to reimburse three years of unpaid wages.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing Baumann Farms on accusations they violated the civil rights of its female workers. 

North Carolina’s only farm worker union is pleased despite mixed decisions so far from federal courts about a 2017 law it says obstructs mostly Latino field hands organizing for better benefits and conditions.

Regulatory Actions:

With a decision on whether to lower the overtime threshold for farm workers due to be revisited in late fall, state Sen. George Borrello and fellow Republicans have called on state leaders to reject any further reductions in the 60-hour threshold for overtime.

Legislative Actions:

Democrats’ long-held hopes for providing a path to legal status for millions of immigrants is now in the hands of a little-known figure: The Senate parliamentarian. 

Developed in the wake of a stinging U.S. Supreme Court defeat for the United Farm Workers, Assembly Bill 616 seeks to shift the location of union elections for California’s farmworkers away from the worksite.

Amid a punishing drought, a bill that would make it easier for unions to organize California farms and ranches has landed on the governor’s desk.

H-2 and Other Worker Status Issues:

The H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers Program more than doubled in size in less than ten years, and fruit, vegetable and nut growers were a big reason for the growth.

Linnea Kooistra’s roots in farming go back 10 generations.

Like many produce companies, Rice Fruit’s staff felt the unprecedented challenge and stress to daily life that came with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Safety:

A Biden administration requirement that businesses with more than 100 workers verify that their employees are either vaccinated or test negative weekly for COVID-19 comes as many Palm Beach County companies struggle to fill open positions.

Lorena Moreno spent nearly a decade harvesting crops next to her husband in the Central Valley’s fields, bathed in sweat from working in the sweltering heat.

There is an old humorous saying that goes something like, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

NCAE This Week:

Both the House and the Senate are out.

 

However, House Committees have been meeting in an attempt to write language that would advance the massive $3.5 trillion budget deal. The Ways and Means Committee has seen a lot of action as they will have to come up with tax increases to pay for some of the new spending being proposed. Moderate Democrats are balking at the price tag of the measure so we can assume changes are a possibility.

 

Language has been developed for inclusion in the bill to provide legal status to over 8 million unauthorized individuals, including farmworkers. Notably absent from the perspective of agriculture are any reforms to the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Worker Program. Passage of the former absent inclusion of the latter could present challenges to agricultural employers. The Senate Parliamentarian has not tipped her hand as to whether this language would satisfy the requirements of the Byrd Rule and be allowed consideration in that Chamber.

 

Next week, NCAE will be meeting with the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The meeting, under Executive Order 12866, was requested by NCAE to more fully address challenges to employers that may exist in an as yet unveiled new wage rule for the H-2A program. Topics will include the AEWR, the USDA’s Farm Labor Survey, disaggregated wages, as well as visiting the statutory determination for implementation of any AEWR.  Wish us luck!

 

This week I had another opportunity to attend an in-person meeting. This one was in Florida with the great folks at FFVA. The team did a terrific job in putting together an excellent meeting! I was also able to pick up some additional ideas as to what our Ag Labor Forum coming up in December in Las Vegas can look like.

 

Have a great weekend!

 

Michael

News articles and citations of interest for week ending 2021/09/17

This sign first appeared last fall when Central Valley edible viticulture farmers could not find enough workers to prune the vines. 

The 2017-18 NAWS found that 68 percent of crop workers were born abroad, including two thirds who were born in Mexico, so that 44 percent of all crop workers are Mexican-born.

The grant, announced on Tuesday, aims to cover some of the costs that many workers incur due to purchasing their own protective equipment or taking unpaid leave.

 

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