By MITCH LIES
Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., has introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to amend labor law in a way that exempts perishable agricultural commodities from being subject to a "hot goods" order.
The U.S. Department of Labor last summer threatened to use the "hot goods" provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act on three Oregon blueberry farms it alleged had committed wage and hour violations.
The provision allows the department to prevent goods from entering commerce until a settlement has been reached.
The growers choose to sign consent orders admitting violations rather than exercising their due process rights and risk losing their crop as their cases progressed.
"While the congressman does not in any way condone hour and wage violations by anybody, he has been unsatisfied with the way the Department of Labor has handled the situation with Oregon growers and feels there are serious questions related to due process, transparency and accountability related to the Department's actions," Schrader's office said in a statement announcing the legislation.
"The DOL has not been forthcoming with information and has dragged their feet getting the congressman information related to the investigation of Oregon growers."
Schrader's office also wrote that in a briefing March 18 in Portland, DOL officials confirmed that the department has multiple tools to ensure labor laws are enforced beyond the hot goods provision.
"Therefore, prohibiting the application of a hot goods order on perishable agriculture commodities does not in any way hinder the DOL's ability to respond to wage and hour violations with growers," the office wrote.
Schrader introduced the legislation March 21.