The Department of Labor has proposed modifications to job-advertising requirements for the H-2A guest worker program. Those modifications drew opposition by the American Farm Bureau Federation.
The H-2A program provides visas for guest workers to fill agricultural positions for which domestic workers cannot be found. Currently, farmers looking to hire foreign workers through the H-2A program must first advertise the positions via a newspaper of general circulation in the area of intended employment.
DOL proposed changing that provision to instead require advertising the positons on the internet, citing greater cost-effectiveness and efficiency. DOL also pointed to data showing U.S. farmworkers vary rarely find employment via newspaper advertisements.
Farm Bureau said it “did not dispute” the DOL data, but noted that federal surveys also show “most farm workers find employment through friends, relatives or word-of-mouth.” The group also cited a DOL report that found “the use of online advertising is less common to rural areas and farm workers than it is in the general population.”
Another issue is that while “the placement cost of the job posting might be less online than in print, the overall costs for employers might well be greater even while protections for US workers remain unchanged,” Farm Bureau observed. As one example, Farm Bureau, in written comments to the proposal, said online job advertising platforms make it easy for unqualified workers to submit résumés even when they do not meet the minimum requirements for the position being advertised. The comments described an agricultural employer “who received hundreds of applicants — most of them vastly unqualified — in response to an online advertisement.”
Instead of moving forward with the current proposal, DOL should modify it to “allow the option of using either online or newsprint advertisements as a way of fulfilling the H-2A recruitment obligation,” Farm Bureau said. If DOL still wishes to transition to an online-only advertising requirement it should first “adopt a method to examine how well” online advertising works before proceeding.
“Only after such an evaluation should the department consider mandating online advertising or print advertisements,” Farm Bureau argued. “Additionally, should the department opt to eliminate print advertisements, it should only do so after publishing the results of its evaluation and engaging in a notice-and-comment process that affords employers the ability to comment on the department’s approach.”