The basic purpose of the Federal Wagner-Peyser Act’s Employment Services program “is to improve the functioning of the nation's labor markets by bringing together individuals who are seeking employment and employers who are seeking workers.”
The role of the State Workforce Agency’s (SWA) Agricultural Services program has significantly shifted from “employment service” to “agricultural outreach” under the eight federal Wagner-Peyser funded Ag Employment Specialist (AES) positions in Michigan (total funding about $21 million).
In 1974 the “employment agency” signed a consent decree (the Judge Richey Decision) “to provide equitable services, benefits and protections to migrant and seasonal farm workers.” Over the years there has been significant implementation of rules and guidance to place additional requirements on the SWAs, potential farm workers, and agricultural employers.
The net effect of the changes – purportedly “required by the Richey Decision” – has been to turn the system into a tool to recruit workers away from agriculture, and for those remaining in agriculture, seek to promote enrollment in various government programs and file complaints against employers rather than providing employment services.
Under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, SWAs were required to file and receive approval of Annual Plans. The plans show continued distancing from “employment services” in favor or “benefits outreach” with the latest report indicating 9,237 farm workers were contacted, but only 661 were referred to jobs (with 50% placement). For this report period, 1,302 positions in 2014 and 2,301 positions in 2015 were available and posted through the Michigan SWA.
As employment services have gone online for all persons, other than farm workers, and most all farm workers have smart phone access, is it time to seek an evaluation to determine if the Judge Richey Decision provisions have been met by the regular one-stop system?
MFB: #2 Agricultural Innovation and Value-Added Initiatives, #49 Agricultural Labor, #51 Immigration
AFBF: #137 Immigration
Performance Planning Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act
Michigan Migrant Seasonal Farm Workers Outreach Program