The Senate on Monday advanced a bill requiring agricultural employers to notify H-2A guestworkers of their rights when it comes to labor, housing, health and safety. Asm. Bill Monning of Carmel said the visa program echoes “the abuses” of the postwar bracero program with Mexico by allowing employers to take advantage of farmworkers.

“If they are fired for any reason, they're subject to immediate deportation,” said Monning on the Senate floor, “which is a powerful disincentive to complain about any abusive workplace conditions that they may be subjected to.”

The Saqui Law Group, a firm representing farmers on labor issues, has singled out another provision recently added to the measure that concerns the industry. Senate Bill 1102 would also require employers to pay full wages for travel time to the job site. H-2A employers are already responsible for providing both the transportation to work and the housing.

“The industry needs to make its voice heard in opposition to this bill,” the firm argues in a recent blog post. “It adds more red tape and confusion to an already heavily regulated system and will provide fodder for more plaintiffs’ actions against employers.”

No senator stood in opposition during the debate. The bill passed along party lines, with several moderate Democrats avoiding an immediate vote. The Assembly will take up the bill in July.