As we reported here, the National Council of Agricultural Employers (NCAE), which Western Growers serves on their Executive Committee, has sued the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to stop unsustainable increases in the minimum wage for H-2A visa foreign guestworkers, known at the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (ARWR). The 2019 AEWR rates are now in effect unless rescinded by court order or other action.
The 2019 AEWR for California is $13.92/hour (up 5.6% from last year’s $13.18/hour). Arizona’s AEWR has jumped from $10.46 (actually $10.50 under the state’s 2018 minimum wage) to $12.00/hr this year. The new AEWR’s are effective January 9, 2019.
Last November, Western Growers signed on to a letter to the secretaries of DOL and USDA seeking administrative relief from increases to the AEWR and direct an interagency study of the underlying issues of whether there is adverse effect on domestic workers due to utilization of H-2A workers and, if so, what measures might be justified to address it. The lawsuit was filed after the agencies failed to respond to the industry’s concerns.
This past Tuesday, the District Court for the District of Columbia denied NCAE’s Motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO) as well as the Department of Justice’s Motion for Stay. The Court has set a briefing schedule to hear NCAE’s motion for preliminary injunction to roll back the 2019 AEWR rates.