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Guest farmworkers will receive a wage increase in 2022

Farmworkers harvest and package cantaloupes near Firebaugh, Calif.
Farmworkers harvest and package cantaloupes near Firebaugh, Calif.

Over 30,000 guest farmworkers across the state will receive a wage increase in 2022. Advocates say this is due in part to a lawsuit against a Trump-era attempt to freeze wages.

The H-2A guest workers program allows farmers to hire people from outside the country to work for them if there is a shortage of domestic workers. Employers are required to pay these guest workers the same rate as domestic workers.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2020 tried to suspend a farm labor survey that helps determine wages for these guest workers. In response, Farmworker Justice, an advocacy group in Washington D.C., sued the USDA, demanding the survey be released. The group won.

“This will be very important for setting wages for the H-2A guest worker program,” lawyer Andrew Walchuk with Farmworker Justice says. “It’s a critical component of that.

He says the results of the survey show that farmworkers in California did earn higher wages last year -- $17.51, up from $16 the year before. That will influence guest workers’ 2022 wages.

“These wages are still far below what farmworkers should be paid, especially given the risks and hazards they face in the workplace,” he added.

Walchuk says farmworkers living in the U.S. also stand to benefit from this wage increase if their employer hires H-2A workers as well.