OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today, leading a coalition of 11 attorneys general, announced filing a multistate comment letter in support of a proposed rule issued by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) regarding changes to the H-2A program. The H-2A program allows agricultural employers who anticipate a shortage of domestic workers to bring nonimmigrant foreign workers to the U.S. to perform temporary agricultural work. The proposed regulations would strengthen worker protection measures for H-2A agricultural workers and the DOL’s capability to monitor compliance and take enforcement actions.
“California would not be the largest producer of agricultural goods in the U.S. without the hard work and dedication of our agricultural workers,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Their hard work puts produce on the tables of millions of Americans. These often exploited workers, including those in the H-2A program, deserve strong and fair workplace protections. The U.S. Department of Labor’s proposal promotes fairness, transparency, and accountability, and I am proud to support it. Agricultural workers deserve to know that we have their backs.”
California is an agricultural leader in the United States, generating more than $50 billion in economic output annually. In fact, 61% of all vegetables and 54% of all fruits and nuts grown in the United States are produced in California. California is the country’s largest producer of food and agriculture and the fifth largest globally. Thus, California has a strong interest in maintaining competition in agricultural production and support for agricultural workers.
In recent years, California has seen an increasing reliance by its agricultural employers on the H-2A program to meet harvest demands. Nearly 93% of participating H-2A workers in California hail from Mexico. The H-2A program, and agricultural work more generally, experience high rates of workplace violations and worker exploitation.
The proposed rule is intended to address concerns regarding DOL’s ability to enforce regulations related to foreign labor recruitment, to improve accountability for employers and their successors-in-interest who use various methods to attempt to evade the law and regulatory requirements, and to enhance worker protections for a marginalized workforce.
The comment letter highlights three specific areas that promote access to information and accountability:
Attorney General Bonta is joined by the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington.
A copy of the comment letter can be found here.