Press Release

Rep. Cuellar Works to Protect Ag Workers

Mission, September 20, 2018 | Olya Voytovich, D.C. Press Secretary & Leslie Martinez, District Press Secretary (Olya Voytovich 202-226-1583 & Leslie Martinez 956-725-0639)

Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) released the following statement on working to protect Agricultural workers through the Ag and Legal Workforce Act:

“My parents were migrant workers and worked in the agricultural fields. I appreciate the hard work these jobs require and I will always work to protect laborers’ rights. Through my work on the Appropriations Committee, I helped secure provisions that ensure the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) work with agricultural laborers when implementing its worker protection standards (language).”

“U.S. Agriculture is at a crisis point and faces a critical labor shortage. Instability in the agricultural workforce places domestic food production and the U.S. economy at risk. I am a co-sponsor of the Ag and Legal Workforce Act because I strongly believe securing a reliable and competent agriculture workforce is crucial to agriculture, our economy, and our national food security.”

Ensuring Greatest Pay for Ag Laborers                                                                                                  

“The claim that the Ag and Legal Workforce Act will decrease wages by $3 per hour across Texas is false. Today, most H-2A laborers receive $11.87 per hour in Texas. This legislation would require employers to pay agricultural guest workers the greatest of the following: ‘‘(i) the applicable State or local minimum wage; (ii) 115 percent of the Federal minimum wage; (iii) the actual wage level paid by the employer to all other individuals in the job. In other words, the greatest of these options is the minimum that an employer must pay; if an employer wants to pay its employees more, it may do so. There would be no three dollar cut, as some people are claiming. This means that workers making $11.87 per hour wages today will continue to make that amount, and new H-2C workers will be entitled to earn the same, provided they are working the same job. As a Representative, I remain committed to finding bipartisan measures and am open to any additional legislative language to address this issue.”

Putting American Workers First

“We need to put American workers first. The guest worker program under this bill requires that an employer seek American workers before hiring foreign labor. By addressing the shortage of workers in the agricultural industry we will help people, in Texas and across the nation, offer improvements to the existing H-2A guestworker program.” 

Providing Legal Status and Protection for Undocumented Workers

“I also want to emphasize that as many as 7 in 10 farm workers are undocumented, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. Undocumented status makes these workers especially vulnerable to abuse and maltreatment as some unscrupulous employers threaten deportation if workers advocate for better working conditions or fair pay. The Ag and Legal Workforce Act will provide legal status for many of these undocumented workers, offering a multitude of protections, such as a minimum wage rate, the ability to choose their agricultural employer, and recourse in the case of unfair labor practices.”