By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor
As soon as she took office Friday, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solís moved to reverse a rule affecting guest farmworkers that former President George W. Bush had modified in his last days in office.
The changes included eliminating duplication among state and federal agencies in processing applications, putting in place a new wage formula, and increasing fines for willfully displacing United States citizens with foreign workers.
Critics said Bush’s rules would push already poor wages even lower, reduce worker protections, and make it easier to hire foreigners without actually looking for American employees first.
Solís had been among the many critics of Bush’s decision, which was made in December but went into effect Jan. 17, three days before President Barack Obama was sworn in. At the time, then-U.S. Rep. Solís issued a statement calling the Bush rules “just the latest example of how out of touch the president is with working families, especially with Latino families that make up a large portion of the farmworkers in this country.”
On Solís’ first day in office, the Labor Department announced in a statement “the proposed suspension for nine months” of the rule. Solís said in the release:
Because many stakeholders have raised concerns about the H-2A regulations, this proposed suspension is the prudent and responsible action to take.
Suspending the rule would allow the department to review and reconsider the regulation, while minimizing disruption to state workforce agencies, employers and workers.