Kansas Attorney General and Republican, Kris Kobach, along with 23 other attorneys general, are urging President Joe Biden to reconsider a proposed federal rule that would offer collective bargaining rights to foreign farm workers, while excluding American farm workers. The Department of Labor under Biden issued this rule in September, intending to make significant changes to the H-2A visa program, which enables U.S. farms to hire foreign workers for agriculture jobs. However, Kobach and the GOP attorneys general argue that the rule unjustly grants collective bargaining rights solely to foreign H-2A visa workers, without extending the same rights to American farm workers.
In a letter addressed to the Department of Labor, Kobach and the attorneys general assert that the proposed rule violates the major questions doctrine, as Congress did not explicitly authorize the department to grant foreign migrant farm workers the right to unionize through the rulemaking process. They argue that the rule is both unlawful and poor policy, as it would create an inequitable situation where temporary foreign workers receive collective bargaining protections denied to American farmworkers. They criticize the prioritization of the interests of foreign agricultural workers over those of American citizens, especially given the financial struggles many Americans, including farm workers, face due to high inflation and interest rates.
To rectify this situation, Kobach and the attorneys general urge the Department of Labor to withdraw the proposed rule, specifically with regard to collective bargaining protections for H-2A agricultural workers and the right of unions to access employer property. Kobach emphasizes disappointment in the Biden administration favoring foreign nationals above U.S. citizens, emphasizing the negative impact this decision would have on American workers.
The letter is co-signed by attorneys general from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia. Over the years, it has been observed that the H-2A visa program is commonly used to replace American workers in order to maintain low labor costs in the agricultural industry. The data also reveals a drastic increase in the number of foreign H-2A visa workers imported for American agriculture jobs, from 16,000 workers in 1997 to nearly 200,000 workers in the first half of fiscal year 2023.
Overall, the attorneys general raise concerns regarding the proposed rule’s favoritism towards foreign farm workers, advocating for a revision that protects the interests and rights of American workers.