In November of last year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops endorsed the Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits, and Security Act of 2003,AgJobs or S. 1645 and H.R. 3142. The Bishops stated in a letter to Congress that the legislation represents a positive improvement upon the current deplorable situation of migrant farm workers
AgJobs represents a bipartisan initiative sponsored by 57 Senators, including Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and Larry Craig (R-ID), and 103 Representatives, including Chris Cannon (R-UT) and Howard Berman (D-CA).
The legislation is the product of years of difficult negotiations between the United Farm Workers Union and representatives for agricultural employers. It includes the following provisions:
- A program which would allow undocumented farm workers who have worked 100 days during the 16 month period ending in August 2003 to earn temporary visas and to work toward permanent residency;
- A path to permanent residency, provided a worker works 360 days within a six-year period;
- The creation of statutory provisions which would protect workers labor rights, including a three-fourths of a season work guarantee and the provision of specific terms of employment;
- A recourse for farm workers to sue employers in federal courts for violation of their labor rights.
- Employers would have the option of providing a housing allowance to workers, equal to the fair market rent in a community, rather than providing housing, as long as the states Governor certifies that there is a sufficient stock of housing available;
- It would streamline the process for obtaining H-2A workers, thus shortening the time period between a request and the issuance of visas.
Contact your Representative and Senators and urge them to support the AgJobs bill and push for its enactment, without amendment, as soon as possible. You can either fax a letter to the Washington congressional offices or call them to convey your support for S. 1645 and H.R. 3142. If your Senators or Representative have already cosponsored the bill, thank them and ask them to push for its immediate enactment.
The following is a sample letter you may wish to mail or fax to your Representative and Senators in support of the AgJobs legislation. You can mail your letter to your Representative at U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. 20515 or to your Senators at U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510. Fax numbers can be obtained by contacting 202-224-3121 and asking for the office of the Senator/Representative.
I write to urge your support for the Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits, and Security Act of 2003, AgJobs, S. 1645, HR 3142. The legislation represents a bipartisan initiative which will improve the plight of vulnerable farm workers in the United States and help stabilize a work force crucial to the production of food for all Americans.
As you know, farm workers perform some of the most dangerous and strenuous jobs in the country, working long hours in difficult conditions. They also provide vital manual labor which supports the backbone of our nations agricultural industry and helps provide the food supply for all Americans.
If passed as introduced, the AgJobs bill will constitute real progress in improving the plight of farm workers and ensuring a stable and viable agricultural labor force for years to come. Among its many provisions, it would allow undocumented workers the opportunity to work toward permanent residency. It also would make changes in the current H-2A agricultural program to ensure an adequate supply of laborers and that their rights are protected and upheld.
I urge you to support this measure and to push for its enactment in the near future.