How much pay increase will California’s guest workers receive?
The exact number of farmworkers who will see wage increases is estimated in the tens of thousands. However, the adverse effect wage rate applies to both H-2A workers and U.S. workers at employers that use the H-2A program, said Goldstein.
In California, there are over 30,000 certified H-2A positions, according to data from the Department of Labor, which accounts for over 10.2% of all total certified H-2A positions countrywide.
“Because H-2A program employers often offer the minimum required wage, we expect that tens of thousands of farmworkers employed in California in 2022 will benefit from this wage adjustment,” said Goldstein.
The USDA farm labor survey includes the average wages for crop and livestock workers surveyed in that region in the prior year, also known as the Adverse Effect Wage Rate, or AEWR. According to Farmworker Justice, the H-2A minimum wage rates for 2022 will increase, on average nationally, by about 6%, from the 2021 rates.
Employers that hire H-2A workers must pay a state-specific minimum wage, which may not be lower than AEWR. In California, the pay rate for H-2A workers was $14.77 in 2020 and $16.05 in 2021. In 2022, the state’s H-2A workers will see a $2.74 hourly jump from the 2020 rate for an hourly pay of $17.51.
Melissa Montalvo is a reporter with The Fresno Bee and a Report for America corps member. This article is part of California Divide, a collaboration among newsrooms examining income inequity and economic survival in California.