March 22, 2013

Media Contact: Moravia de la O
Phone: (410) 783-0236

Federal Court Orders the U.S. Department of Labor to Stop Using Invalid Wage Determinations for Temporary Workers

BALTIMORE, MD- Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. (The Center for Migrant Rights, or “CDM”) is celebrating a victory in the case Comité de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agricolas (CATA) v. Solis, et al., Civil No. 2:09-cv-240-LP, 2010 WL 3431761 (E.D. Pa.).  In response to litigation by CDM and co-counsel Edward Tuddenham, Friends of Farmworkers, Inc., North Carolina Justice Center, Northwest Workers’ Justice Project, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, on March 21, 2013 the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said the Department of Labor (DOL) could no longer use the 2008 invalid wage methodology, which artificially lowers wages so that they no longer represent the market rates.  This decision was issued on the same day that Congress passed a financial plan that continued to block funding for the 2011 prevailing wage rule.  The 2011 prevailing wage rule, if funded, would make wages for many temporary workers consistent with market wages.  The federal court ordered the DOL to come into compliance within 30 days of the ruling.

“By continuing to use the 2008 wage rate calculations, the administration significantly limited workers’ abilities to earn competitive wages in U.S. seasonal industries,” said Rachel Micah-Jones, CDM’s Executive Director. “We were forced to take action against the DOL to ensure a fair wage for the thousands of workers who labor on H-2B visas.  We are pleased that the Court decided ‘enough is enough’ and prohibited the use of a wage methodology that, while still in use, was declared invalid on August 30, 2010.”

CDM with a coalition of immigrants’ rights defenders initiated a federal lawsuit against the DOL on behalf of Salvador Martinez Barrera, a leader of CDM’s Comité de Defensa del Migrante (Migrant Defense Committee), and other workers to challenge the regulations that were issued at the twilight hour of the Bush Administration. Beginning in 2009, the coalition represented plaintiffs against U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Alexander J. Passantino, Janet Napolitano and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  The lawsuit alleged that the assigned prevailing wage rates artificially lowered temporary workers’ pay below market rates and jeopardized migrant and U.S. workers’ rights.

“This is a very significant step forward for internationally recruited workers who come to the U.S. on H-2B visas,” said Micah-Jones.  “The Court’s ruling brings us closer to ensuring that workers earn the pay that they deserve for all of the hard work that they perform.”