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17 state AGs sue Biden admin. for allowing foreign farmworkers to unionize

A group of 17 state attorneys general, led by Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach, filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration this week over a rule that gives temporary farm workers in the country on H-2A visas the ability to unionize.

Federal law prohibits collective bargaining for American farm workers.

“Once again, Joe Biden is putting America on the back burner,” Kobach said in a statement.

“Biden’s terrible economy is giving political benefits to foreign workers while American workers suffer. I’m on the side of American workers.”

The complaint, filed June 10 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, argues that the U.S. Department of Labor’s new rules rewrite the National Labor Relations Act, and that only Congress has the power to amend the National Labor Relations Act.


The complaint, filed June 10 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, argues that the U.S. Department of Labor’s new rules rewrite the National Labor Relations Act, and that only Congress has the power to amend the National Labor Relations Act. AP

Kobach argues that the new rules will give many temporary foreign immigrant farm workers the power to unionize, unlike millions of American farm workers, creating a situation in which foreign workers are treated better than Americans.

According to the lawsuit, the Department of Labor believes it can enact the new rules under the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA).

But state attorneys general have a different view: They argue that the law doesn’t allow them to offer H-2A visa holders better working conditions than American workers.

“The Final Rule goes further to provide rights to H-2A workers that American agricultural workers do not expressly have under federal law,” the lawsuit reads.


Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach speaks during a news conference at the State Capitol in Topeka, Kansas, Thursday, March 28, 2024.
Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach argues that the new rules create a situation in which many temporary foreign immigrant farm workers have the power to unionize, unlike millions of American farm workers. AP

“… The final rule is merely a back door to allow the agency to achieve policy objectives that require legislation that Congress cannot pass.”

The lawsuit involves two private agricultural groups and the attorneys general of Kansas, Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

Reading the court documents here.

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