Governor signs CRLAF’s AB 636, Requiring Mandatory Disclosure of California Labor Rights Information
After four years of effort and 2 prior vetoes, the Governor finally signed CRLAF’s AB 636 (Kalra), creating a comprehensive California legal rights disclosure notice for H-2A farmworkers.
This first-in-the-nation landmark legislation requires H-2A growers without a union contract to provide each H-2A farmworker, on their first day of work, with a state Labor Commissioner-drafted Spanish language notice that describes in easily understandable terms approximately two dozen California labor rights and protections these workers typically do not learn about from their employers (or the federal government).
For over a decade, CRLAF has played an essential watchdog role over the operation of the H-2A program in California. Our advocacy created tangible improvements in how the Employment Development Department (EDD) processed (often inadequate or illegal) employer applications certified by U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) for the importation of guest workers, and wage theft litigation on behalf of vulnerable farmworkers has vindicated their fundamental right to be paid what was promised.
In fiscal year 2023, more than 43,000 H-2A workers were brought into California, expanding not only the ‘footprint’ of contract labor in the free labor market, but also deepening the negative impacts on housing availability. This year, we expect as many as 50,000 H-2A workers to enter California. As seen over the last several years, greater numbers of H-2A entrants led to decreased effective federal and state oversight, and a number of heightened employer abuses which we continue to attack aggressively.
We expect AB 636’s required workers’ rights notice will operate to create more legally compliant work places for H-2A farmworkers, especially since failure to provide the new notice is enforceable through litigation under the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA). We also expect to extend the spirit of the AB 636 notice requirements to H-2A indigenous, non-Spanish speaking, farmworkers who are being recruited in ever larger numbers by California growers and labor contractors in southern Mexico and Central America. We envision requiring employers to show non-Spanish speaking employees a short video presentation covering labor protections addressed in the notice, and be subject to the same penalties for non-compliance.
CRLAF’s previous efforts to enact H-2A farmworker labor rights notice legislation included: SB 1102 (authored by former Senate Majority Leader William Monning), vetoed in 2020; and AB 857 (also authored by Assembly Labor Committee chairman Ash Kalra), vetoed in 2022. We would like to extend a deep expression of gratitude to coalition partners, who supported these bills through four different legislative sessions:
California Alliance for Retired Americans
California Coalition for Rural Housing
California Food & Farming Network
Californians for Pesticide Reform
California Employment Lawyers Association
California Immigrant Policy Center
California Institute for Rural Studies
California Labor Federation
California Teamsters Public Affairs Council
Central California Environmental Justice Network
Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy
Centro Binacional de Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño
Centro de los Derechos del Migrante
Consumer Attorneys of California
Employee Rights Center
Equal Rights Advocates
North Bay Jobs with Justice
Pesticide Action Network
Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition
Sunita Jain Anti-Trafficking Policy Initiative (Loyola Law School)
UFCW, Western States Council
United Farm Workers Union
Women’s Employment Rights Clinic (Golden Gate School of Law)
Click here for a copy of the new law. For more information, contact CRLAF's Director of Legislative Advocacy, Mark Schacht at: email@example.com