Washington State House Democrats


LEGISLATIVE NEWS: Committee Passes Legislation Empowering H-2A Workers

OLYMPIA, WA – Washington’s farmworker families, the backbone of our agricultural economy, face a growing threat: depressed wages caused by a lack of transparency in the H-2A guest worker program.

Today, the House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee took a crucial step towards fair compensation and worker protection by passing House Bill 2226 – introduced by Representative Lillian Ortiz-Self (D-Mukilteo).

The H-2A program’s rapid surge, with a staggering 1,000% increase since 2008, raises concerns about suppressed local wages. HB 2226 tackles this head-on by demanding H-2A worker transparency.

Under the legislation, the Employment Security Department (ESD) will collect actual worker numbers at each site and housing locations during field visits. This sheds light on potential program abuse and ensures employers follow the rules.

Additionally, quarterly reports comparing requested and actual H-2A workers will be delivered to an Advisory Committee within the Office of Agricultural and Seasonal Workforce Services (ASWS). This will empower ESD and the legislature to create informed policy decisions to combat practices that depress local wages.

Reliable data on farmworker wages is vital for fair compensation. HB 2226 empowers workers by launching comprehensive wage surveys. By going directly to the source, field surveys will reach harvesters where they are, ensuring accurate data collection. Accurate counts also safeguard our rural workforce, enabling targeted assistance and protecting livelihoods in times of crisis.

“This sends a clear message” said Rep. Ortiz-Self. “Washington will not tolerate practices that exploit farmworkers and depress wages.”

Rep. Ortiz-Self emphasized that “this bill takes a critical step towards addressing the injustices faced by our farmworkers. By increasing transparency, gathering crucial data, and informing policies, we can truly empower and protect this vital and vulnerable workforce.”

HB 2226 now heads to the House Appropriations Committee for further consideration.