AEWRs rule determined
On Nov. 2, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a final rule which updates the strategy for determining the annual Adverse Effect Wage Rates (AEWRs) in the H-2A Visa Program.
“The AEWR is a minimum wage rate providing a floor below which the wages of agricultural workers cannot be negotiated,” stated DOL in a news release. “Requiring employers to pay the AEWR when it is the highest applicable wage is the primary way the department meets its statutory obligation to certify the employment of foreign workers will not adversely affect workers in the U.S. who are similarly employed.”
DOL noted the new rule improves the consistency of AEWRs, provides stronger protection for workers and establishes better stability and predictability for employers in complying with their wage obligations.
“This final rule provides greater consistency and predictability in the H-2A Visa Program,” said Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training John Pallasch. “It is a victory for farmers, agricultural workers and the American people who rely on a vibrant agricultural sector to supply food for our families.”
According to DOL, the rule will use the average hourly wages for field and livestock workers based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Labor Survey for AEWRs through the calendar year 2022 for the vast majority of agricultural jobs.
For all other ag-related jobs, DOL will set and annually adjust AEWRs using the average hourly wages for the occupational classification reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Employment Statistics Survey Program.
“The changes implemented in this rule also address stakeholder concerns about the potential for significant and unpredictable wage changes from year to year associated with DOL’s prior AEWR methodology, while ensuring better wage protections for U.S. workers similarly employed in higher skilled ag jobs,” explained DOL.
“More predictable wage adjustments in the H-2A Visa Program will help American farmers plan and budget for their workforce needs and ensure wages in the H-2A program keep pace with steadily increasing wages in the wider economy,” continued the department. “By taking this action, DOL is protecting U.S. workers and helping farmers keep food on America’s tables.”
In response to the rule, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said, “Over the past several years farm wages have increased at a higher pace than other industries, which is why this DOL rule could not come at a better time. This is an example of good government that will ensure greater stability for farmers and help them make long-term business decisions rather than facing uncertainty year after year.”
DOL noted they intend to issue a second final rule to finalize the remainder of the proposed rule, which will govern other aspects of the certification of agricultural labor performed by H-2A workers. The DOL’s final rule can be viewed at dol.gov.