06/11/2013

Department of Labor guest worker wage regulations endorsed by SPLC

The SPLC endorsed proposed rules that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) will use to establish wages for low-skill, nonagricultural guest workers, noting in a letter to the department this week that the regulations will help protect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers. 

The SPLC also submitted detailed comments to the department offering additional recommendations before the regulations for the H-2B guest worker program – already in effect on an interim basis – are finalized. These comments were summarized in the letter and include the following recommendations:

  • Ensure that the methods used to calculate wage rates for H-2B guest workers do not undercut U.S. workers in the same jobs. The DOL has found that the previous wage rule led to underpayment in nearly 96 percent of cases, because the methodology established wages far below the median in industries using H-2B workers. 
  • Ensure that wage surveys provided to the DOL by employers attempting to justify paying wages to H-2B guest workers that are lower than the prevailing wage rate will be unacceptable except under very limited circumstances.
  • Establish by regulation the detailed criteria for the content of employer-provided wage surveys, including the requirement that such surveys must be based upon data collected across industries that employ workers in the same occupation. This will help prevent these surveys from depressing wages. 
  • Require that collective bargaining agreement wage rates will be paid to H-2B guest workers for any position when these wages are higher than the Occupational Employment Statistic’s mean wage for the job or the wage as calculated under the Davis Bacon Act or the Service Contract Act. This will ensure guest workers will not undercut U.S. workers.

The SPLC has long fought to protect immigrant workers from workplace exploitation and other human rights abuses. It has filed lawsuits, exposed civil rights violations and pushed for meaningful immigration reform. The SPLC documented the abusive nature of the H-2 guest worker program for low-skill workers in its 2007 report Close to Slavery. An updated edition of the report was released this year.