On September 12, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released a barrage of proposed rules changes aimed at “increasing worker protections” under the H-2A worker program.
The rules call for:
• Expanding workers’ rights to “organize,” which employers would be responsible for providing a list of their workers to labor organizations;
• Allow their workers to designate a representative to attend ANY meeting between a worker and employer where discipline may be an outcome;
• Employers will have to certify with the DOL that they will bargain in good faith with labor organization or explain why they will not;
• Require that an employer may only terminate a workers “for cause”;
• Employers will be required to identify and disclose contact information for anyone soliciting H-2A workers on tier behalf and supply the DOL with any agreements/contracts;
• Wage rate increases would be immediate;
• Require employers to communicate overtime opportunities and any postponed start dates for workers and if not provided an adequate notice of a delayed start date, pay wages for each day of work that is delayed; and
• Public disclosure of personal information about farmers and managers.
The timing of further regulation and requirements for employers could not have come at a worse time. Domestic worker shortages in the agricultural industry, costs of transportation, energy and H-2A workers continue to rise at unprecedented rates. The Michigan Greenhouse Growers Council will be issuing comments on the DOL proposal.