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Washington, DC - The U.S. Department of Labor announced today the proposed suspension for nine months of the Bush Administration's last-minute regulation changes to the nation's H2A agricultural guest worker program. The changes made it easier for growers to slash the pay of domestic farm workers, reduce housing benefits and hire imported foreign laborers instead of U.S. field workers.

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The Bush Administration today finalized midnight regulation changes to slash wages, make it easier to hire foreign workers, and reduce worker protections for the nation's farmworkers.  The changes apply to the H-2A agricultural guestworker program and were published today in the Federal Register.  They will take effect January 17.

The DOL's many harmful revisions to the H-2A visa program include reducing obligations for growers to effectively recruit U.S. workers before applying to bring in guestworkers, lowering the wage rates by changing the program's wage formula and eliminating government oversight of the program.

Eliminating labor law enforcement in an industry known for violating the minimum wage is irresponsible and unacceptable.  The DOL is not enforcing worker rights in the current program and is allowing employers to bypass U.S. workers in favor of hiring vulnerable temporary foreign workers.

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Before leaving office, the Bush Administration is leaving one parting "gift" to our nation’s farmworkers.  In midnight regulation changes to the agricultural guestworker program he will slash wages and reduce worker protections for those who harvest our crops.  

The changes, proposed by the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) were revealed on the DOL website late Monday evening but have not been officially published in the Federal Register yet.

The H-2A program is a temporary agricultural guestworker program that permits employers to apply for permission to hire foreign labor for jobs lasting ten months or less.  To bring in H-2A guestworkers, employers must show that they cannot find U.S. workers who want the jobs.  These will be the most far-reaching changes in the laws regulating agricultural guestworker programs since 1942.  They will return us to an era of agricultural labor exploitation that many thought ended decades ago.

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The Bush administration is expected to announce major changes to the nation's agricultural guestworker program any day now. Last February the Department of Labor, which administers the H-2A temporary agricultural guestworker program, announced plans to slash wages, worker protections and minimum housing requirements for tens of thousands of our nation's farmworkers. If adopted, these changes would be illegal, put farmworkers in America back more than 65 years, and become a new stain on our nation's conscience.

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