“They’ve been getting away with underpaying these workers for years.”

Posted: 09/15/2011 in Capitalism, Development, Immigration, Inequalities, Justice, Labor, Mexico, United States

In just a few short weeks, on October 1st, foreign guest workers with the H2B Visa program in the United States are scheduled to get a federally mandated pay raise. Predictably, industry is pushing back, claiming that paying more for labor is simply untenable.

“They’ve been getting away with underpaying these workers for years,” said Art Read, general counsel for the advocacy group Friends of Farm Workers, who was involved in the lawsuit that forced the Labor Department to redraw its rules. “If you’ve gotten used to being able to have a very cheap workforce, having to compete with market wages is maybe something you don’t want to do.”

Read says that in the case of Maryland seafood workers, for instance, the wage will probably rise from about $7.25 per hour now to about $9.24 after the new rule goes into effect. The former rate is the same as the federal minimum wage, while the latter rate, incidentally, roughly matches the living wage rate for Maryland, as defined by the state.

H2-B guest workers are some of the more vulnerable workers in the seafood industry, according to Rachel Micah-Jones, executive director of Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, a workers’ rights law center based in Mexico. She says many workers end up earning less than minimum wage because they get paid by the pound of seafood handled, and many of them are afraid to report workplace abuses because they aren’t U.S. citizens and can work only for the employers listed on their visas.

Micah-Jones says that the low wages paid to guest workers help drag down wages for everyone, including American workers, and that the wage raises are long overdue.”

Read the whole article here: Lobbying Group Launches ‘Defense Fund’ to Fight Raises for Guest Workers


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