NCAE President Infuriated by DOL’s Final Rule Concerning Farmworker Protection

Clint ThompsonLabor

This is the first in a two-part series about DOL’s Final Rule

By Clint Thompson

To say that Michael Marsh, president and chief executive officer of the National Council of Agricultural Employers, is upset by a new H-2A rule implemented by the Department of Labor (DOL) would be an understatement. The agriculture leader is infuriated by the recent announcement and is calling for an immediate withdrawal.

“That latest rule on worker protection that came from the Department of Labor is a stinker. Actually, it should be withdrawn. The nature of the regulation was such, that when you went through the proposal, it was almost as if you thought there must be an echo chamber of people talking to themselves about agricultural labor without ever really getting out on the farm to find out what actually takes place,” Marsh said.

Additional Regulations

The 600-page rule was meant to strengthen protections for farmworkers, targeting vulnerable workers experiencing abuse under the H-2A program. But it has only added to the regulatory burden impacting specialty crop producers nationwide.

“It was demoralizing to the vast majority of farmers and ranchers who use the H-2A program and follow every law in the book. They spend hundreds of hours through the year and tens of thousands of dollars just to comply with the regulations. What happens? Within a period of 18 months, we get 3,000 new pages of regulations from the Department of Labor. As if we weren’t regulated enough already,” Marsh said.

It has also added some controversial regulations.

The final rule adds new protections for worker self-advocacy, allowing workers to consult legal guidance in employer-furnished housing. Workers can also invite and accept guests, including labor organizations, to their employer-furnished housing.

It also requires seat belts for vehicles used to transport workers under the H-2A program. Vehicles without seat belts for every occupant are prohibited under the final rule.

The final rule becomes effective on June 28, 2024. H-2A applications filed before Aug. 28, 2024, will be processed according to applicable federal regulations as is in effect as of June 27, 2024. Applications submitted on or after Aug. 29, 2024, will be processed in accordance with the provisions of the Farmworker Protection Rule.

Source: Department of Labor