OLYMPIA, Wash. — The minimum wage for H-2A visa foreign guestworkers likely will drop 13 cents in Washington and Oregon next year to $11.87 per hour, the Washington Farm Labor Association says.
That’s a projection based on federal surveys of field and livestock worker wages in the two states and won’t be official until the U.S. Department of Labor announces a new rate in January, said Dan Fazio, WAFLA director.
Employers were able to pay less in 2013 because they weren’t as desperate for labor as they were in 2012 because tree fruit crops were smaller and about 2,000 more H-2A workers were on hand, Fazio said.
A drop in the H-2A minimum wage may help growers hire more H-2A workers, he said. That can be critical, particularly in tree fruit, where crops are trending larger and the labor force is trending smaller.
The minimum wage for H-2A workers is set annually by DOL. It’s known as the adverse effect wage rate (AEWR) and is intended to prevent wages of similarly employed U.S. workers in a region from being adversely affected by the importation of foreign workers.
The AEWR for Washington and Oregon has been $12 per hour. Washington’s minimum wage goes from $9.19 to $9.32 on Jan. 1. Oregon’s goes from $8.95 to $9.10. Washington and Oregon have the two highest minimum wages in the nation.
Employers are required to pay H-2A workers the higher of the AEWR or the applicable piece rate, Fazio said.
Employers who hire H-2A workers are required to pay any domestic workers hired for the same job in the same location the AEWR as a minimum over the state minimum wage, said Kirk Mayer, manager of the Washington Growers Clearing House Association in Wenatchee.
A drop in the AEWR is good as long as growers are still able to attract a quality workforce, Mayer said.