Story at a glance

  • The Farm Labor Survey is used to determine wages for migrant farm workers on H–2A visas in order to protect domestic workers.
  • The Trump administration announced it was suspending the survey.
  • Labor unions are concerned that the move would lower pay for all farm workers.

A labor union is suing the Trump administration over a move that could allow lower wages for migrant workers, undercutting domestic workers. 

The United Farm Workers (UFW) union and its nonprofit advocacy arm, the UFW Foundation, filed the complaint on Tuesday, which was first reported by Business Insider, against the U.S. Department of Agriculture for cancelling a survey of farm workers’ wages in the upcoming year. 


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The Trump administration announced in September it was suspending the Farm Labor Survey, which provides the base wage estimates for all workers directly hired by U.S. farms and ranches. The "Adverse Effect Wage Rate" establishes the minimum rate for more than 200,000 migrant farm workers on H–2A visas to avoid undercutting the wages of domestic farm workers. 

"This lawsuit is critical. The wage loss could amount to thousands of dollars to workers who are barely making both ends meet. These wage decreases will create a ripple effect, ultimately resulting in many US farm workers being paid less. And the fact that they are trying to cut the wages of these essential workers in the middle of a pandemic is outrageous," said the United Farm Workers in a statement accompanied by a petition.


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In the official notice, the USDA said it "has determined the public can access other data sources for the data collected in the Agricultural Labor Survey.” Changing America has contacted the agency for comment. 

In April, when NPR first reported the potential change, an unnamed White House official told NPR, "The administration is considering all policy options during this unprecedented crisis to ensure our great farmers are protected, and President Trump has done and will do everything he can to support their vital mission." 


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Published on Oct 15, 2020