Washington, D.C.—On October 6th, the U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh met with immigrant workers during a closed-door roundtable discussion about labor conditions and exploitation that immigrant workers often encounter. Included in the discussion was UFW Foundation member and H-2A guest worker who spoke about his experience in the H-2A program.
The farm worker, whose identity will not be disclosed due to fear of retaliation, arrived in the U.S. through the H-2A guest worker visa program and worked one season in Southern Georgia picking and packing vegetables such as cucumbers, squash, and peppers. In their experience as an H-2A worker, the UFW Foundation member described working long hours in intense heat with limited access to water and rest. Despite the dangerous work and wage theft they faced, they felt that they could not leave their employment as the employer had confiscated their documents on their arrival. As is common in the H-2A program, the employer threatened the workers with deportation if they did not do as told.
In February, UFW Foundation joined a coalition of labor, immigrant, and human rights organizations in urging the Biden administration to conduct a thorough investigation of the H-2A system following exposure by federal law enforcement of a criminal organization in South Georgia using the program for human trafficking, slavery, and money laundering.
Alma Young, UFW Foundation organizing coordinator, said:
“We appreciate DOL recognizing the valuable contributions of immigrant workers. Farm workers are essential workers and deserve to be treated with respect. We look forward to continuing to work with DOL to improve farm worker labor protections and access to immigration protections.”
UFW Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that advocates for labor rights and protections for farm workers across the U.S. For more information, visit https: www.ufwfoundation.org.
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