It's January, which means hourly wages in Washington are increasing. On January 1, 2018, the state hourly minimum wage increased to $11.50. On January 4, 2018, the prevailing wage rate to be paid to H-2A workers increases to $14.12 per hour. The U.S. Department of Labor’s formal notice announcing the 2018 Adverse Effect Wage Rates (AEWR) for employment of H-2A workers—temporary or seasonal nonimmigrant foreign workers—to perform agricultural labor or services other than the herding or production of livestock on the range can be found at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/12/21/2017-27528/labor-certification-process-for-the-temporary-employment-of-aliens-in-agriculture-in-the-united.
An H-2A employer must offer this $14.12 per hour AEWR not only to its H-2A workers but also to its other workers in corresponding employment for a particular occupation and area. This equal-pay treatment ensures that the wages of similarly employed U.S. workers are not adversely affected by the use of H-2A workers. Washington’s 2018 AEWR is the second-highest rate in the nation, tied with Oregon and following only Hawaii.
To employ H-2A workers, an employer must first obtain a labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor that certifies:
1) there are not sufficient U.S. workers able, willing, and qualified at the time and place needed to perform the labor or services, and
2) the employment of the foreign workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers similarly employed.
An employer receiving H-2A certification must pay its H2-A workers and workers in corresponding employment the highest of: 1) the AEWR, 2) the prevailing hourly wage rate, 3) the prevailing piece rate, 4) the agreed-upon collective bargaining wage rate, if applicable, or 5) the federal or state minimum wage rate.
If you have questions about the H-2A certification process or requirements, please contact one of Stokes Lawrence’s agricultural-practice attorneys: Erika Hartliep, Charissa Johnston, Brendan Monahan, Sarah Wixson, Dustin Yeager or Jaime Cuevas, Jr. at 509.853.3000.