By: Jaci Schreckengost
The H-2A program is a guest-worker program that allows people from other countries to come to the United States on a visa as agricultural employees for temporary, seasonal work.
Many industries are beginning to use H-2A due to uncertainty over the domestic labor supply, says Fritz Roka, an associate professor of agriculture economics at the University of Florida. Roka is located at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee.
Roka says the citrus industry has increased the amount of guest workers it is using, and vegetable and berry growers are also becoming more involved in the H-2A program.
“There’s an important distinction about H-2A workers from our traditional domestic workers, and that is that these are contract workers versus at-will workers. And by contract, that means both employer and employee sign a paper saying that you will start on such-and-such date and you will work until this date,” Roka says.
Within the contract, it gives the employee a guaranteed 35 hours per week minimum, along with an hourly rate. Roka says the current hourly rate is $11.12, approximately $3 above the Florida minimum wage.
It is also stated within the contract that the employer will provide transportation from the employee’s home to the worksite, Roka says.
H-2A does not reduce the number of domestic jobs in the United States. Any domestic worker that wants to be an agricultural employee is entitled to the job before a guest worker from the H-2A program. Any domestic worker would also be entitled to the same contract as the H-2A workers, including transportation and pay, Roka says.
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