Farm Labor in California: Then and Now (Working Paper #37)

Phillip Martin, University of California – Davis

Introduction: Farmers are pressing for a new guest worker program that would eliminate: (1) the US Department of Labor’s role in certifying the need for foreign workers to fill vacant US farm jobs; (2) the Adverse Effect Wage Rate; and (3) the need to provide free housing to out of area workers (farmers could provide a housing allowance instead of housing). One way to eliminate DOL’s role in certifying a farmer’s need for guest workers is a registry, a computer system to be operated by the Employment Service in each state. ES offices would verify the right of workers willing to be dispatched to fill farm jobs by seeking to be registered. Employers would submit job offers to the ES registry in their state. If an employer requested 100 workers from the registry, and ES had only 40 registered workers willing to report to that employer, the ES would issue a “shortage report” that would affirm that DOL agrees the farmer needs 60 foreign farm workers.

Some versions of a new guest worker program for agriculture include a conditional amnesty for unauthorized workers. Under one proposal, unauthorized foreigners who can prove that they did at least 150 days of US farm work within the past 12 months could became temporary legal US residents and workers. If they do an additional 180 days of farm work a year in five of the next seven years, they could apply for legal immigrant status.

Working Paper #37»