Minimum wages for immigrant farm workers won’t go up following a North Carolina federal judge’s decision to halt a federal government plan to overturn an H-2A visa regime it had implemented just last year.
The injunction, issued by Judge William L. Osteen Jr., of the Middle District of North Carolina, means farmers nationwide can continue to pay H-2A visa holders between $7.25 and $8.51. Otherwise, the hourly minimum would have gone up to $9.34 per hour.
H-2A visas cover foreign workers who perform agricultural jobs in the United States. In 2008, in the waning days of the Bush administration, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) changed H-2A visa rules first implemented in 1997. The 2008 regulations held minimum wages to between $7.25 and $8.51 per hour.
Then earlier this year, the Obama administration’s DOL gave notice it was going to write new regulations. The department said it would suspend the 2008 rule while it wrote the regulations and took comments from the public. That would have had the effect of raising the H-2A minimum wage to the $9.34 rate.
An agricultural group headed by the North Carolina Growers Association filed suit seeking an injunction to prohibit the government from suspending the 2008 rule.
Osteen sided with the farmers when he issued the injunction, noting they would have suffered substantial harm if the 2008 rule had been suspended.
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