California’s agricultural and service sectors contribute tremendously to the state’s economic success, yet both industries rely heavily on unauthorized workers from outside of the U.S. to maintain their economic production and revenues.
In recognition of this reality, and in light of federal inaction on comprehensive immigration reform, Assembly Member V. Manuel Pérez (D-Coachella) has introduced Assembly Bill 1544, known as the Agricultural Jobs & Industry Stabilization Act of 2012. As Pérez himself noted, that inaction “consigns [unauthorized] workers to the shadows and creates uncertainties for the businesses that rely upon them.”
AB 1544 facilitates economic stability in these industries by establishing a program that provides agricultural and service sector businesses a safe and legal way for their unauthorized workforce to work in California.
The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that half of the agricultural work force in the U.S. is comprised of unauthorized workers, while the agricultural industry believes the number to exceed 75 percent. Similarly, California’s service industry, including businesses that provide domestic services, janitorial or building maintenance services, food preparation services, and housekeeping services, rely heavily on unauthorized workers as a sustainable labor supply.
If enacted, and after securing the necessary approval from the federal government, AB 1544 would: authorize the Employment Development Department (EDD) to establish a state resident worker program to issue worker permits to unauthorized agricultural and service industry workers currently in the state, enabling them to work legally in California; require the unauthorized worker to meet specific criteria; require EDD to certify, prior to initiating the program, that there are not sufficient U.S. citizens and legal residents in California to meet the labor demand for agricultural and service industry jobs; and specify that workers in this program are entitled to all the same wage, hour and working condition protections in California law.
AB 1544 is part of a three-bill package, aimed at helping California maintain its competitive edge in key sectors of the state’s economy using a compassionate and responsible approach that emphasizes economic and family stability. The other bills include AB 1545, the California Bi- National Economic Development & Infrastructure Bank; and AB 1546, the California High Skilled Worker Retention Act of 2012.
For more information about any of these bills, visit Assemblyman Pérez’s website at http://asmdc.org/members/a80/.