NATIONAL NEWS

Farm laborers to receive greater protections under Biden administration proposal

Sep 11, 2023, 2:26 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Immigrant farm workers would receive a raft of new protections under a Biden administration proposal to be announced Tuesday, which would boost safety requirements on farms and raise transparency around how such workers are brought to the U.S., to combat human trafficking.

The proposal would reform rapid hiring after the pandemic and a low unemployment rate has left many farmers scrambling for workers.

Last year, about 370,000 people were admitted with H-2A visas, double the number in 2016 and five times as many as in 2005, Labor Department officials said. Yet as the popularity of the program has grown, so have concerns about abuses. Reports of overcrowded farm vehicles and fatalities have increased as the numbers have risen, senior department officials said.

The department is already required to ensure that the H-2A program doesn’t undercut the wages or working conditions of Americans who take similar jobs. Employers are required to pay minimum U.S. wages or higher, depending on the region.

“This proposed rule is a critical step in our ongoing efforts to strengthen protections for farm workers and ensure that they have the right to fair and predictable wages, safe working conditions and freedom from retaliation,” said Julie Su, acting secretary of Labor, in a statement.

The new rule, which is subject to a 60-day comment period, seeks to make it easier for labor unions to contact and interact with the H-2A workers, and to protect the workers from retaliation if they meet with labor representatives. The workers would be allowed to have visitors, including those from labor groups, in employer-provided housing, for example.

The rule would also require farmers who employ H-2A workers to provide seat belts on vans that are often used to transport workers long distances. Transportation accidents are a leading cause of death for farm workers, according to the department.

And in a step intended to counter human trafficking, employers would be required to identify anyone recruiting workers on their behalf in the U.S. or foreign countries and to provide copies of any agreements they have with those recruiters.

Another visa program, the H-2B, which allows temporary workers in fields other than agriculture, already includes similar requirements, department officials said.

“We’re putting together a series of new protections or clarifying protections to make sure that workers in the program can really advocate on behalf of themselves, and that…will help prevent the problems that we’re seeing with exploitative conditions,” a senior Labor department official said.

National News

FILE — Hunter Biden arrives at federal court with his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden, June 11, 2024, i...

Associated Press

Hunter Biden seeks dismissal of tax, gun cases, citing decision to toss Trump’s classified docs case

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, asked a federal judge Thursday to dismiss tax and gun cases against him, citing a ruling in Florida this week that threw out a separate prosecution of former President Donald Trump. The requests in federal court in Delaware and California underscore the potential ramifications of U.S. District […]

24 minutes ago

FILE - This undated booking photo provided by the Butler County, Ohio, Jail shows John Allen Carter...

Associated Press

Man gets 3 years in death of fiancée who went missing in Ohio in 2011

HAMILTON, Ohio (AP) — The fiancé of an Ohio art student who went missing nearly 13 years ago was sentenced Thursday to three years in prison. John Carter, 36, had been charged with two counts of murder when he was arrested in March 2023. He eventually pleaded guilty last month to involuntary manslaughter as part […]

25 minutes ago

Image: Actor-comedian Bob Newhart sits with a bronze likeness of Dr. Bob Hartley, the character he ...

Associated Press

Bob Newhart, deadpan master of sitcoms and phone monologues, dies at 94

Bob Newhart, the accountant-turned-comedian who became one of the most popular TV stars of his time has died at 94.

31 minutes ago

Associated Press

Boy who was reported missing from a resort near Disney World found dead in water

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A 3-year-old boy who was reported missing from a resort near Walt Disney World in central Florida early Thursday was found dead in a body of water on the resort’s grounds several hours later, the sheriff’s office said. The boy was initially believed to have wandered away from the resort sometime […]

43 minutes ago

FILE - Pageant winners throw out beads during the Memphis PRIDE Festival & Parade, June 4, 2022, in...

Associated Press

Federal appeals court dismisses lawsuit over Tennessee’s anti-drag show ban

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A federal appeals court on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit challenging first-in-the-nation law designed to place strict limits on drag shows, reversing a lower court ruling that deemed the statute unconstitutional and blocked its enforcement in part of the state. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Memphis-based LGBTQ+ […]

43 minutes ago

Amazon prime day...

HALELUYA HADERO, AP Business Writer

Amazon says this year’s Prime Day was its biggest ever

Amazon saw record sales for Prime Day this week as Prime members purchased more items than ever before, the company announced Thursday.

55 minutes ago

Farm laborers to receive greater protections under Biden administration proposal