WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor announced early this November that the final rule on the annual Adverse Effect Wage Rates (AEWRs) in the H-2A visa program aims to protect farmers and American workers.
What is the Adverse Effect Wage Rates (AEWR)?
The AEWR is a minimum wage rate that provides a floor below which the wages of agricultural workers cannot be negotiated.
This requires employers to pay the AEWR when it is the highest applicable wage is the primary way the Department meets its statutory obligation to certify that the employment of foreign workers will not adversely affect workers in the United States similarly employed.
What benefit do we get from the update on the AEWR?
The new rule improves the consistency of the AEWRs, provides stronger protections for workers, and establishes better stability and predictability for employers in complying with their wage obligations.
According to Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training John Pallasch, “this final rule provides greater consistency and predictability in the H-2A nonimmigrant visa program.” He also added and said that, “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.”
The AEWRs for agricultural jobs are expected to be adjusted by the Department annually using the average hourly wages for the occupational classification reported by the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey program.
How does the adjustment of AEWR work per occupation?
These agricultural jobs are often supervisory or higher skilled/uniquely skilled, such as construction jobs, which pay higher wages than typical farming occupations. Using the OES survey to establish AEWRs for these higher-skilled jobs will allow the Department to consistently establish occupation-specific AEWRs to better reflect the wages paid for such jobs and better protect against adverse effect on similarly employed United States workers.
This wage adjustment is believed to be substantial in protecting U.S. workers and helping farmers keep food on America’s tables.
The Department intends to issue a second final rule to finalize the remainder of the July 29, 2019, proposed rule that will govern other aspects of the certification of agricultural labor or services performed by H-2A workers, and enforcement of the contractual obligations applicable to employers of such nonimmigrant workers.
The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.As an employer, apart from making sure to put up labor law posters, it is also vital that you are aware of these updates and implement them as imposed by the law. Failure to comply with any government regulations will be met with corresponding penalties