FIRST ON FOX: Republicans are calling on the Biden administration to withdraw a rule reforming the H-2A agricultural worker visa program -- claiming that it is a "giveaway to Big Labor" and infringes on the property rights of farmers.
"The proposed rule exceeds DOL authority, is a giveaway to Big Labor, infringes on farmers’ property rights, and is overly burdensome in numerous other ways," House Education and Workforce Committee Chair Virginia Foxx and Agriculture Committee Chair Glenn Thompson wrote to Acting Labor Department Secretary Julie Su.
The Department announced the rule in September, which builds on a rule published last year concerning the H-2A program -- which grants temporary or "nonimmigrant" visas to foreign farmworkers.
As a move designed to address concerns about abuse of workers in the program, the rule expands workers’ rights to invite guests -- including union officials -- to employer-provided housing and meetings with employers. It would also require employers to provide lists of workers to requesting labor organizations. The Biden administration says the move increases transparency.
The rule also makes new wage rates applicable immediately, rather than weeks later. It would also require employers to provide transport to worksites that includes seatbelts in response to safety concerns. It would also establish six conditions that would need to be met in order to terminate a worker for cause.
"This proposed rule would strengthen protections for H-2A farm workers who are particularly vulnerable to labor abuses, empower them to advocate for fair treatment and ensure that their employment does not depress labor standards and undercut domestic farm workers," Su said in a statement. "The administration is committed to protecting all workers, and this proposal would significantly advance that effort."
But the Republicans say that the union strengthening could be unconstitutional and could interfere with farm work.
"The proposed rule puts its thumb on the scale to favor labor unions in several ways that exceed DOL’s authority and are contrary to congressional intent," they say, arguing that the agency does not have the authority to impose the mandates.
They also warn that the lists being required to be provided to unions is in fact a "wish-list" from Big Labor.
"The proposed rule additionally requires employers to provide to a labor union a plethora of personal information on workers upon the union’s request and allows only one week of response time to such a request," they say. "This information includes the workers’ full names, dates of hire, job titles, work location addresses, personal email addresses, personal cellular telephone numbers, profile names for messaging applications, home country addresses, and home country telephone numbers.|
They also object to the inclusion that employers satisfy certain criteria before firing an H-2A worker for cause, arguing that it could interfere with the need to terminate a worker for safety reasons.
"The proposed rule is thus overly burdensome to employers and may harm the interests of workers," they say.
They also argue that the limited time to adjust wages after the agency publishes wage rates is "an unnecessary change that will be challenging, if not impossible, for employers to meet."
"DOL needs to withdraw this proposed rule and go back to the drawing board," the lawmakers say.