Schrader, Agriculture Sub-Committee Blast Department of Labor on Hot Goods Orders
Say Perishable Crops Should Be Exempted
Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-OR) blasted a Department of Labor official today in a hearing on the use of ‘hot goods’ orders on perishable crops. Schrader and subcommittee Chair Austin Scott (R-GA) have introduced HR 1387 to prevent the department of labor from issuing such orders on perishable agriculture commodities in the future. The bill was introduced as a result of ‘hot goods’ orders placed on Oregon blueberry farmers in 2012.
“It’s clear from the testimony today that the Department of Labor doesn’t even know or follow the regulations it purports to have on these issues. I’m frankly embarrassed at their lack of understanding of the difference between perishable commodities like fruits and vegetables, and processed foods and durable goods that have normally been the target of these orders,” said Schrader.
Oregon blueberry farmers were targeted with “hot goods” orders in 2012 after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor. ‘Hot goods’ orders are used to prevent the shipment of goods produced in violation of wage or child labor standards. A federal judge vindicated the farmers earlier this year ruling that the Department of Labor made the farmers sign admissions of guilt under economic duress. The farmers were prohibited from shipping their blueberries until they signed papers saying they violated minimum wage and record keeping laws and waived their right to appeal.
Schrader pointed out in the hearing that ‘hot goods’ orders had never been used on perishable products in more than seventy years under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA) of 1938 until the Department of Labor began issuing them in 2008.
“Nobody on the committee, Republican or Democrat, wants to see employers get away with violating FSLA. We need to hold law breakers accountable. But the overzealous and inappropriate use of a ‘hot goods’ order on a perishable item that can spoil within days is not acceptable,” said Schrader. “The U.S. Department of Labor has other enforcement tools they can use without violating the due process of Oregon farmers”.
The full video of today’s hearing is available at http://agriculture.house.gov/hearing/review-impact-enforcement-activities-department-labor-specialty-crop-growers