October 26, 2017

UFCW Statement on the Agricultural Guestworker Act

Bill would cut food processing wages by 50 percent and put the safety of our food at risk 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, released the following statement regarding the Agricultural Guestworker Act (H.R. 4092), which passed the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 17-16 on October 25.

“The Agricultural Guestworker Act is a direct threat to American jobs, wages, and food safety. 

“It will flood the meat processing sector with hundreds of thousands of untrained visa holders, effectively destroying middle class jobs that are currently held by hard-working American families who play a critical role in the safety of our food. 

“This bill will also make it easier for guestworkers to be exploited and encourages them to take on work that is demonstrably unsafe without years of training. 

“Any member of the House who cares about protecting good American jobs and wages will do the right thing and oppose the Agricultural Guestworker Act.”

Background:

  • The Agricultural Guestworker Act (H.R. 4092) will bring 450,000 visa holders to work in agriculture and meat processing jobs that are currently held by hard-working American families.
  • The bill had bipartisan opposition when it passed out of the House Judiciary Committee, with Republicans Steve King (IA-4) and Louie Gohmert (TX-1) joining Democrats to vote no. Five other Republicans refrained from voting.
  • The impacts of this bill on the meat and poultry industry, and the U.S. workers employed within them, would be devastating. Food processing workers are highly trained professionals who not only perform a very difficult and highly skilled job, but also serve as a much-needed layer of protection for consumers when it comes to food safety.
  • Rather than require that new H-2C workers be paid at similar rates so that they cannot be used to displace workers and drive down wages, the bill simply requires that employers attempt to recruit workers at $10.88 per hour. If U.S. workers don’t apply at that wage rate, the employer would be authorized to bring in hundreds, or even thousands, of guestworkers at the $10.88 figure—a fraction of what meat and poultry workers in America currently earn.
  • This bill encourages irresponsible employers to displace American workers by bringing in hundreds of thousands of guestworkers across multiple sectors of our economy – effectively forcing U.S. workers out of currently good-paying jobs.

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries.

Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico.

Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org