White House Seeks to Cut Wages, Smooth Migrant Labor Hiring for Farms Squeezed by Coronavirus
By By Michelle Hackman and Jesse Newman, The Wall Street Journal
WASHINGTON—The Trump administration is taking steps to reduce costs and restrictions on farmers looking to hire migrant workers during the coronavirus pandemic, including lowering their minimum wages, according to people familiar with the plans.
The push is driven by newly installed White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, these people said, and many agricultural employers support lower wages. Mr. Perdue has long championed easing requirements on seasonal agricultural guest-worker visas, known as H-2A, and the administration’s pandemic response has accelerated some of these changes.
The wage change, which the administration hasn’t yet formally proposed, would effectively cut the minimum wage for migrant farmworkers to $8.34 an hour, 15% above the federal minimum wage. That would amount to a cut of around $2 to $5 per hour from current wage rates, which vary by state.
States with higher minimum wages wouldn’t be subject to the new rate. “During these difficult times, President Trump and Secretary Perdue are doing everything to ensure farmers have the tools to carry out the vital work of feeding the American people,” an Agriculture Department spokesperson said in a statement. The White House didn’t respond to requests for comment.
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Submitted by Jarom Jemmett, Class 39