Court Upholds Rule Protecting U.S. Workers’ Wages


February 21, 2014


In a victory for American jobs and fair pay, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld Department of Labor wage rules requiring non-agricultural foreign workers be paid prevailing wages.


Under Labor Department rules, employers requesting authorization to bring in temporary foreign workers must first advertise those jobs to American workers at the prevailing wage set for the occupation.

A coalition of employers sued the Department of Labor, arguing that the federal government cannot force employers to make an effort to hire U.S. workers first.

As Ross Eisenbrey at the Economic Policy Institute wrote:

The Louisiana Forestry Association, the Crawfish Processors Alliance, and the American Hotel and Lodging Association actually argued that the required wages should not be set high enough to attract U.S. workers and that the Labor Department is not allowed to protect U.S. workers’ rights to a decent wage. Fortunately, the three-judge panel unanimously rejected this cynical argument and found that setting wages below the local prevailing wage does ‘adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed United States workers’

Before employers can request foreign workers under the H-2B visa program, they must prove to the Department of Homeland Security that they can’t fill their jobs with U.S. workers.

But before the Labor Department instituted its prevailing wage ruling in 2011, there was a big problem: employers often set wages so low that no American worker would take them, exploiting temporary workers at the expense of U.S. citizens.

EPI research found that H-2B wage rates were approximately 25 percent lower than the prevailing wage, making it easy for companies to claim that they needed to bring in foreign workers.

By tying these jobs to the prevailing wage, the Obama administration cut down on H-2B abuse and  raised wage standards for American and foreign workers.

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Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user The Open University (OU)