Washington D.C. Updates 7/14/22

July 13, 2022

H-2A farmworker wage rule under review at White House

In December 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor posted draft regulations to raise the required wages for farmworkers on H-2A guest-worker visas. The proposed rule would require all workers who fall within multiple job classifications to be paid under the occupation with the highest wage. Currently, employers of H-2A workers must pay workers the highest of the adverse effect wage rate, the prevailing hourly or piece rate, the agreed-upon collective bargaining wage, or the federal or state minimum wage. Last week, the Department sent the final rule to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for approval -- the last step before its publication in the Federal Register.

Appropriations update

House Democratic leaders are working to move all 12 FY 2023 appropriations bills before the August recess. The bills have been combined into two six-bill omnibus packages. The first package, H.R. 8294, contains Transportation, House, and Urban Development, Agriculture, Energy and Water Development, Financial Services, Interior and Environment and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. The House Rules Committee is scheduled to meet next week to grant a rule for a structured amendment process for floor consideration. The House will then consider the second six-bill package the following week.

While the House continues to move through the appropriations process, timing in the Senate is uncertain. The Senate has yet to reach a consensus on the defense and non-defense spending numbers the Appropriations Subcommittees need to draft their bills. Further complicating things, Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is currently recovering from surgery. With the delay, Congress is expected to pass a continuing resolution and conference the bills after the election. UEP had a number of priorities for this year’s appropriations process including language on the truthful labeling of plant-based products.

West Coast ports to remain open after contract expiration

West Coast ports will continue to operate following the contract expiration between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA). While operations continue, both sides made it clear that no extensions will be added to the now-expired contract. Every few years, the ILWU and PMA negotiate on a new contract. Both parties indicate that port automation will be the largest factor in increasing Western port speeds. Dockworkers have expressed their concern about automated ports and are worried about widespread integration. President Biden and legislators have also voiced their concerns with the ILWU and PMA, urging them to create a fair collective bargaining process. If an agreement cannot be reached, disruption of port operations could exacerbate challenges faced by an already fragile supply chain.