A commentary in the Times Argus and Rutland Herald, Perspective section,
August 5-6, “Migrant Rights Threatened,” trashes a guest worker program, H-2A, that many Vermont farmers are using successfully. It was written by Will Lambek and Enrique Balcazar of the organization Migrant Justice, based in Burlington. The authors glorify undocumented Mexican dairy farm workers and their work, while with the same breath they trash farmers and seasonal farm workers participating in the H-2A program.
It serves no useful purpose for the authors to pit dairy farmers against other farmers of Vermont. H-2A is a good, workable and practical program for seasonal workers. Instead of condemning H-2A, the authors and Migrant Justice should be working toward a similar legal program for dairy farms. H-2A is a legal program authorized by Congress years ago, run by the U.S. Department of Labor with help from the Vermont Department of Labor. Seasonal workers come to the U.S. for seasonal work and then go home. This is clear to workers before they come, and they agree with the requirements. It’s been our experience at Stonewood Farm that the workers have families at home in Jamaica and want very much to go home when the seasonal work is completed. Jamaicans come to work and earn money to send home. They have no intention of becoming U.S. citizens.
H-2A in Vermont brings in mostly Jamaican seasonal workers who have agreed to and want to go back to Jamaica after the season’s work is completed. The state Department of Labor inspects housing facilities and sets wages and requirements for the program. Vermont farmers and orchard owners pay transportation to and from Jamaica, pay worker housing, pay local transportation, and a pay fair wage…