Take Action for Farmworker Justice! Tell Your Rep: OPPOSE The Farm Workforce Modernization Act

The Farmworkforce Modernization Act is scheduled to be voted on today, Wednesday December 11 2019. Please take a few minutes to make a phone call and advocate for farmworker justice.

OPPOSE HR 5038: The Farm Workforce Modernization Act

Tell Your Congressional Representative: NO ON HR 5038

Find your representative here

Familias Unidas por la Justicia is calling for action to stop HR5038, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act because it:

  • creates a false illusion of a pathway to citizenship
  • further entrenches exploitation, wage theft, and blacklisting that H2A farmworkers face by expanding the H2A guestworker visa program
  • does not contain a provision for the right to organize
  • could trigger panic in rural communities without access to advocacy and legal support because Homeland Security would be mandated into payrolls
  • injured farmworkers are left out of any benefits or rights
  • farmworkers were not consulting in drafting this bill
  • benefits larger corporate agricultural interests over human and labor rights

Call your Congressional Representative TODAY and tell them to OPPOSE HR 5038 and support farmworker justice! Find your Rep here for phone numbers.

Sample Script:

“I am calling to ask Representative ______ to urge her to oppose House Resolution 5038 because it is expands the H2A guestworker program, which creates a false illusion of a pathway to citizenship, and further entrenches the exploitation, retaliation, wage theft, and blacklisting that H2A farmworkers currently face. There is no provision in the bill supporting farmworkers’ right to organize, strike, form a union, or collectively bargain. Injured farmworkers are left out of any benefit or rights. This bill benefits larger growers and corporate agricultural interests over human and labor rights. I am following the lead of farmworkers in Washington state denouncing this bill, and ask Representative ______ to also follow their lead and oppose this bill.”


Read the statements from Familias Unidas por la Justicia and Community to Community below:

FUJ statement on Farm Workforce Modernization Act
November 12, 2019

As farmworkers, we recognize the urgency and need for justice of our community.  For many years we have resisted the growing attack on immigrant people and workers that is coming from the new Right movement. Many of the members of our union have faced detention and deportations, not just during the present Trump administration, but during previous administrations that thought of themselves as more friendly to our cause.

In Washington State we are seeing a rapid increase in the guest worker program, H2-A.  In the last two years, farm producers along with farm labor contractors have increased the program more than 300%.  That reflects a national reality in the United States.  We have experienced firsthand the exploitation suffered by the workers who are brought under the H2-A visa program.  They experience wage theft, lack of health care, bad quality housing, inhuman production standards, and in one case, even death.

We believe we have the right to dignified work.  As a union, we defend the rights of domestic workers as much as those of guest workers in the H2-A program.  Nevertheless, we know that the program is being used as a mechanism to silence the organization of farm worker and to give even more power to growers over the lives of the workers.  We oppose the expansion of the H2-A program and to any expansion of contracted labor that has the potential of harming more workers and displacing the local labor force.

We should not give false hopes to workers who are facing extreme poverty, such as telling them that the H2-A system is the best means of bettering their lives.  The United States says the it believes in family values.   The H2-A program divides families for the purpose of obtaining the maximum profit for growers.  We see the H2-A program as a continuation of the separation of families that is taking place in the detention centers on the border.  The H2-A system is profoundly defective and whatever expansion would be harmful for farmworkers.

Domestic workers also trying to alleviate the daily attack coming from ICE and a racist system are also in a desperate situation.  Every day we worry about going to work, and that we won’t be able to come home to our children.  We see the spine-chilling effect that takes place when ICE is in our community.  We all want to be able to work and live in peace, without constantly looking over our shoulder.  We also need legalization, but we do not want to sell out our principles.

We believe that we deserve an amnesty without having it attached to the ability of an employer to say if we deserve it or not.  We have worked the land for generations, and we don’t want to wait another 5 or 10 years to get permission to stay.

In addition, we know that farm work is one of the most dangerous jobs in this country.  We want the workers and families who have been injured, mutilated and traumatized to be included in the amnesty.

E-Verify as leverage in negotiations shouldn’t be the start of bargaining.  We believe it is a Trojan horse for future bargaining over immigration reform.  As workers we are not the cause of harm to workers in other industries.  E-Verify has been a way for ICE to target worksites and monitor the movement of each person.  If this legislation is approved, each farm employer will then have to use E-Verify.  From one day to the next, the agricultural industry will crumble.  There are not enough worker anywhere to do all the work required to support the industry.  This concerns us because it means the consolidation of the agricultural industry that hasn’t been seen since the consolidation programs in the Soviet Union under Lenin, and never in the capitalist system.

We see that big concessions have been made.  Ones that are against our principles in organizing and human rights.  We will not give up the right nor will we accept agreements that give more power to growers.  We deserve something better and we will not bargain our means of living for an exploitative and racist system that will become more permanent.  We support the ability of workers to negotiate in their own name.  Familias Unidas por la Justicia and our members will continue the struggle for farmworkers and in solidarity with all the workers of the world.  We therefore do not in good conscience support the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019.

For comments or questions please call Edgar Franks, FUJ Political Director

Familias Unidas por la Justicia

Executive Committee

Ramon Torres, President

Tomas Ramon, Vice President

Benito Lopez, Secretary, Treasurer

Lazaro Matamoros

Octavia Santiago

Jose Ramirez



At Community to Community Development (C2C) our vision as farmworker leaders is a just transition toward a food system that respects the environment and rural communities, centering farmworkers and our right to dignity and equity.


We are deeply opposed to the H2A guestworker visa program, which commodifies workers in a globalized, for-profit system that favors corporate control. The FWMA allows for major, permanent expansion of the H-2A program, which would continue a trend that has been displacing domestic farmworkers for the last twenty years. The language in this bill limits workers’ status to employer sponsorship, facilitating an environment of exploitation, retaliation, wage theft, and blacklisting. There is no provision for the right to strike, the right to join a union, or the right to bargain collectively as a counterbalance to employers’ control over workers.

This bill expands the eligibility requirements for H2A visa applications to year-round work on farms beyond field work, including processing plant work, general labor building on site, and any other trade that is working on a farm, which sets a dangerous precedent. There is no component in the single filing system to verify licensure or safety standards required of these additional trades. This creates an opening for corporations to import workers in other industries using the guestworker visa mechanism.


This bill is not a step towards comprehensive immigration reform, but a divisive and dangerous path linking citizenship to the H2A program. The talking points and summary by proponents of this bill create an illusion of easy legalization, when, in reality, they are offering a false solution to a desperate, beleaguered undocumented community under attack by the current administration. This highly detailed and convoluted 223-page piece of legislation outlines a complicated, costly process to legalization that only applies to a fraction of undocumented farmworkers who currently live and work here.

Family reunification is not addressed. We will not support legislation that puts millions of workers at risk for deportation and divides our communities by sectors. We will not support a process that leaves the majority of immigrant families behind.


For most employers, E-Verify is voluntary; most of the nation’s 18 million employers do not participate in the E-Verify program, including agricultural employers. We are concerned that E-Verify will be used by corporate industrial agricultural employers to control local labor forces and track workers and their families. This mandate invites the Department of Homeland Security into local agricultural employers’ payrolls, which we believe will trigger panic in rural agricultural immigrant communities that do not have access to advocacy and legal support. We are further concerned about how this bill will impact small family farms in rural Washington State, where E-Verify is currently optional.


Even though agriculture is one of the most dangerous industries for workers, this bill does nothing to address the hundreds of thousands of undocumented, injured farmworkers that will not qualify to be included in the process for status due to their injuries suffered in the fields. Additionally, if a worker is injured and unable to work the full 100 days per year required to gain citizenship, they will be disqualified and deported. There is no provision in the bill for medical care.

While the bill contains language regarding workplace safety and prevention of sexual harassment, there is no mechanism or funding in place for tracking and enforcement.


 This bill was written in a small vacuum, without enough input from farmworkers and their families across the country. In Washington State, we were not consulted. Worse, our local independent farmworker union, Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ), and its leadership were not at the table. FUJ is a small, agile, and powerful union which has proven that in a community where there is support for farmworkers and just food systems, farmworkers can win for themselves, consumers, and family farmers. Local economies need an equitable workforce, not a controllable quasi slave labor workforce.

This bill is clearly designed to benefit large growers and corporate agricultural interests, such as farm labor contractors. Any just immigration reform would determine eligibility for status based on human and labor rights, not the profitability of immigrant labor for corporations.

We believe that this bill will create additional barriers to domestic farmworkers’ ability to create economic well-being and social equity for themselves and their families in rural America. We urge you to contact your legislators and ask them to oppose this bill.

Posted in Food Justice Blog Posts, News, Slider.

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