University of Chicago Law Review

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Recent developments in law and economics have shown that labor market power is a pervasive antitrust issue contributing to earnings inequality and slowed economic growth. In the agriculture sector, workers—especially H-2A temporary agricultural workers—have consistently suffered from low, stagnating wages and poor working conditions. This Comment evaluates the extent of labor market power in the agriculture sector and how antitrust law and immigration-policy norms exacerbate labor monopsony. I show that the pervasiveness of labor monopsony is due, in part, to a conflict between antitrust law and immigration regulation. Specifically, I examine an immigration statute that allows temporary guest workers to work in the agriculture sector. Immigration regulation and its enforcement allow employers to engage in anticompetitive practices that entrench farmers’ labor market power. While Section 1 of the Sherman Act protects workers from any agreement to restrain wages, the H-2A statutory standard allows conduct that can lead to wage suppression, thus bolstering farmers’ and ranchers’ labor-market power. Additionally, antitrust enforcement is weakened by courts’ interpretation of the immigration statute as immune from antitrust law. To resolve these issues, I first offer a guide for judges to interpret immigration and antitrust laws together. Second, I provide some suggestions for legislators to amend the provisions of the immigration statute.

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