Farmers in Washington State Are Suing the U.S. Department of Labour Because Their Wages Have Been Lowered

Farmers in Washington State Are Suing the U.S. Department of Labour Because Their Wages Have Been Lowered

A group of farmworkers from Washington state is suing the U.S. Department of Labour, saying that the agency lets companies hire cheaper workers from other countries instead of them.

The farmworkers in Skagit County who are members of the Familias Unidas por la Justicia union want a federal judge to force the department to change its pay so they can make more money and live better.

In 2022, the Department of Labour got rid of its prevailing wage system. This system set a standard wage for farm workers based on the usual wages that people in the field reported in surveys. Columbia Legal Services, a law firm in Seattle, asked the court to temporarily turn back to using prevailing wage rules from 2022 on Friday. This is so that the case can continue.

Right now, the Department of Labour sets the wage for temporary visa workers in Washington state at $19.25, which is about $3 more than the minimum pay for the state. The trouble is that an experienced worker from the U.S. can usually make around $28 during the busiest harvest times. Edgar Franks from Familias Unidas Por La Justicia said this.

He said that makes it easy for farmers to hire foreign workers instead of local farmworkers at lower wages.

“That’s a big hit for people who have worked on farms for a long time picking apples,” Franks said. “They’re great, and they can’t wait to pick crops during the busy season to make ends meet.”

The farmworkers say that the Department of Labor’s rules on pay are out of date and don’t always follow what the law says. They want the department to change the $19.25 wage so that it is more competitive, among other things.

“The Department of Labour is failing to protect local workers’ wages,” said Andrea Schmitt, an attorney for the farmworkers with Seattle’s Columbia Legal Services. “This hurts farmworker families and forces them out of jobs they would have taken otherwise.”

“Workers in the area need to be protected for their free market wages against the effects of bringing in workers from places where the economy is weak, and they will take any wage that is offered,” she said.

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