A U.S. district judge in Washington, D.C., has set a Jan. 28 hearing on arguments about a preliminary injunction to halt increases in the minimum wage for H-2A-visa foreign guestworkers that took effect Jan. 9.
Judge Timothy J. Kelly will hear arguments at 2 p.m. on Jan. 28, said Michael Marsh, president and CEO of the National Council for Agricultural Employers in Washington, D.C.
NCAE and Peri & Sons Farms, Yerington, Nev., filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Labor on Jan. 7 seeking to stop increases for 2019 they say are arbitrary, unsubstantiated and will cause irreparable harm to many farms.
The Department of Justice is representing DOL in opposing a preliminary injunction.
The increases average 6.3 percent nationwide and are 22.8 percent in Nevada, Utah and Colorado. Peri & Sons, a fresh-market vegetable farm that employed 1,768 H-2A workers in 2018, estimates the 2019 increase will cost it about $3.7 million, threatening its viability.
The H-2A minimum wage, known as the Adverse Effect Wage Rate, or AEWR, has gone from $10.69 per hour to $13.13 per hour in those states.
It has increased from $14.12 to $15.03 in Washington and Oregon, the highest in the nation, and affects a lot of Washington growers, mostly in tree fruit, who hired 24,862 H-2A workers in 2018.