Representative (and House Judiciary Chairman) Bob Goodlatte (R-VA-6) has introduced the The Ag Act (H.R. 4092). The bill would create a new category of guest worker under what would be known as the H-2C program. The H-2C program would gradually phase out the existing H-2A guest worker program that name wineries and vineyard operations use. The bill went through many iterations before a mark up in front of the House Judiciary Committee on October 24. WineAmerica is a member of two agriculture labor reform coalitions, the Agriculture Workforce Coalition and the Coalition and the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform. Both groups are tentatively supporting the bill, with the hope it can be improved with amendments. The original version of the bill that was circulated in early October has been changed to appeal to hardline conservatives and has seen some negative changes, including mandatory E-verify, which we do not support.
Co-sponsors (as of 10/24)
Roger Marshall (R-KS-1)
Jodey Arrington (R-TX-19)
Kevin Cramer (R-ND)
Glenn Thompson (R-PA-5)
Sean Duffy (R-WI-7)
Rob Bishop (R-UT-1)
Bob Gibbs (R-OH-7)
Mike Gallagher (R-KY-6)
- Interim Period between Enactment and when the H-2C Program is Available: H-2C is scheduled to become available after 6 months. In the interim, illegal workers are afforded no protection from enforcement. E-Verify would go into effect 18 months after enactment
- Green Cards: No green cards are set aside for experienced agriculture workers.
- Numerical Limitation: Total cap on visas is 450,000. 40,000 of those visas are set-aside for meat and poultry processing. 410,000 are for the remainder of the jobs classified as agricultural labor. An automatic escalator/de-escalator provision applies to each sub allocation.
- Wages: Employers must pay H-2C workers not less than the State or local minimum wage. 115% of the Federal minimum wage (150% in the case of meat or poultry processing jobs), or the actual wage level paid by the employer to similarly situated individuals in same job, whichever is greatest.
- Health Insurance: Each H-2C worked must carry health insurance coverage.
- Program Administration: The Ag Act gives the duties and enforcement responsibilities that the Department of Labor currently has under the H-2A program to the the Department of Agriculture under the H-2C program. Any duties and enforcement responsibilities that the Department of Homeland Security currently has under the H-2A program will remain at the Department of Homeland Security under the H-2C program.