Dear Governor Newsom,
We write to urge you to sign AB 364 into law. This legislation provides necessary protections for the hundreds of thousands of internationally recruited workers who perform work essential to California’s economy. AB 364 requires labor recruiters that bring workers to California from abroad to register with the State and abide by commonsense rules to ensure that workers can seek redress from recruiters that violate the law. At the same time, the legislation benefits law abiding employers by shielding those that use registered recruiters from liability and preventing low-road employers from undermining labor standards for all California workers.
Since 2005, Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. (CDM or the Center for Migrant Rights), the Nation’s first binational U.S.-Mexico migrant workers’ rights organization, has advocated alongside internationally recruited migrant workers to ensure that they can work with dignity in U.S. workplaces. As CDM has documented, however, all too often, these workers suffer abuses—like prohibited recruitment fees and fraudulent job offers—that start at their point of recruitment abroad.1 These recruitment violations are frequently at the root of exploitative employment practices in the U.S., including labor trafficking, that depress working conditions for all workers. Yet it can be difficult for migrant workers to hold foreign labor recruiters accountable because the recruiters often lack a formal presence in the U.S., fail to respond to litigation, or are insolvent.
AB 364 addresses these problems head-on by eliminating the unjustified exclusion of most California migrant workers from the innovative protections of SB 477, enacted in 2014.2 Some of the critical provisions of SB 477 include:
- Requiring foreign labor recruiters to register with the Labor Commissioner, establish a California agent for service of process, and purchase a surety bond to ensure accountability for violations;
- Disqualifying recruiters that commit violations of basic labor protections from engaging in business in the State;
- Ensuring that workers receive transparent, accurate information about their jobs before traveling to California to work;
- Establishing a complaint mechanism for workers who suffer violations to seek redress; and
- Giving safe harbor to employers that use properly registered recruiters.
SB 477 promised to greatly improve the working conditions of migrant workers in California. Unfortunately, in a legislative oversight, it only covered a small subset of internationally recruited migrant workers—H-2B visa workers employed in non-agricultural jobs.3 The legislation thus left hundreds of thousands of migrant workers in industries as varied as agriculture and technology vulnerable to unscrupulous recruiters. Workers in many of these sectors experience pervasive violations in recruitment and employment.4 Signing AB 364 into law will ensure that these workers are protected from labor abuses.
California hosts more temporary visa workers than any other state in the U.S. Its laws should serve as a model for the Nation in protecting workers from the abusive recruitment practices that currently pervade labor migration programs.
Thank you for considering our request that you sign this important legislation into law.
Benjamin R. Botts
Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc.
1 See, e.g., Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Recruitment Revealed: Fundamental Flaws in the H-2 Temporary Worker Program and Recommendations for Change (2014), https://cdmigrante.org/wpcontent/uploads/2018/02/Recruitment_Revealed.pdf.
2 See Cal. Bus. & Profs. Code §§ 9998-9998.11.
3 See id. § 9998.
4 See, e.g., Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Ripe for Reform: Abuses of Agricultural Workers in the H-2A Program (2020), https://cdmigrante.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Ripe-for-Reform.pdf (out of 100 H-2A workers surveyed, 94% reported at least three serious labor violations).