It now appears that the Trump administration is looking to use the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to lower agricultural wages.
It is contemptible, but using an emergency as an excuse to shaft the most vulnerable in society is Republican Party 101:
New White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is working with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to see how to reduce wage rates for foreign guest workers on American farms, in order to help U.S. farmers struggling during the coronavirus, according to U.S. officials and sources familiar with the plans.
The measure is the latest effort being pushed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help U.S farmers who say they are struggling amid disruptions in the agricultural supply chain compounded by the outbreak; the industry was already hurting because of President Trump’s tariff war with China.
The nation’s roughly 2.5 million agricultural laborers have been officially declared “essential workers” as the administration seeks to ensure that Americans have food to eat and that U.S. grocery stores remain stocked. Workers on the H-2A seasonal guest-worker program are about 10% of all farmworkers.
The most recent push to lower wage rates for workers on H-2A visas has drawn pushback from some strange bedfellows: immigrant-rights advocates and immigration hard-liners usually aligned with Trump.
It’s unclear how the reforms would be made, including whether they would be taken through executive action or through the federal regulatory process. But Perdue has pushed for adjusting what is known as the adverse effect wage rate, which prevents farmers using the H-2A program from paying all workers — U.S. and guest workers — wages below the prevailing rates in the surrounding area.
Earlier this year, Perdue said the adverse wage rate has set almost a $15 minimum wage for agriculture, noting “no other business in the country has that,” according to the agriculture trade journal DTN.
The “adverse effect wage rates” are based on a USDA survey of what agricultural workers are paid in each state. It’s $11.71 in Florida, $12.67 in North Carolina and $14.77 in California.
Evil is as evil does, I guess.