WASHINGTON (CN) - A federal judge dismissed claims from four immigrant sheepherders who claim that new Department of Labor guidelines depress herder wages through its guest worker visa program.
The immigrant herders sued Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, challenging procedures created as part of training and employment guidance.
The 2011 guidelines state that employers of H-2A visa-holding employees are required to offer herders the monthly, weekly or semi-monthly prevailing wage established by the Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC).
Older guidelines required employers to pay whichever was higher - the OFLC rate, the nationally established adverse effect wage rate, or federal or state minimum wage.
U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell ruled that the four plaintiffs - who have not worked as sheepherders since 2011 - cannot show injury and have no standing to sue.
"At most, the plaintiffs state that they would compete for open-range herding positions if the positions offered better wages and working conditions," the judge wrote. "Yet, these sorts of 'some day' intentions - without any description of concrete plans, or indeed even any specification of when the some day will be - do not support finding of the 'actual or imminent' injury that [the Supreme Court's] cases require.'" (Brackets in ruling.)
Lead plaintiff Reymundo Z. Mendoza claimed that the government adopted the guidelines without notice or accepting public comment, and challenged it under the Administrative Procedure Act.
The shepherds claimed "that they are able, willing, qualified, and available to work in the open-range production of livestock in the United States, though none of them currently works in that field because they say that the importation of foreign labor has depressed wages for open-range herders, which has prevented them from reentering their preferred line of work."
Two agricultural associations, Western Range Association and Mountain Plains Agricultural Services, intervened in the case and successfully filed motions to dismiss the claims for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.
In addition to the wage guidelines, the Labor Department also requires employers of H-2A herders to provide employees with mobile housing, though they do not have to provide "a running cold-water tap, electricity, or modern toilet facilities."
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