CDM has used the North American Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as a mechanism to fight for migrant justice. Joining with Mexican migrant workers and allies in the trinational corridor, we have held the United States government accountable for violating its obligations by filing two complaints under the NAFTA labor side accord, the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC).
In September 2011, former migrant fair workers, CDM, and a binational coalition of workers’ rights advocates filed a petition arguing that the United States government failed to enforce its domestic labor laws, promote compliance with minimum employment standards, and protect migrant workers. During the petitioners’ employment in various travelling fairs, their U.S. employers paid them far below the minimum federal and state wage, even after they had incurred significant recruitment fees and work-related expenses. The carnival and fair employers also exposed the petitioners to unsafe working and unsanitary housing conditions, refused them work breaks, and never informed the workers of their rights under the law at any point during their recruitment or employment. The facts of the petitioners’ cases are in no way unique, and they demonstrate a continued lack of enforcement of important workplace protections on the part of the United States government. Canada, Mexico, and the United States have an affirmative duty under the NAALC to ensure that employers comply with domestic labor laws, and also to protect the migrant workers in their territories. The ongoing abuses documented in the petition demonstrate that the U.S. government fails to enforce its wage laws equally for migrant workers and fails to investigate complaints and inspect and monitor workplaces employing migrant workers.
In July 2016, a group of migrant worker women and supporting nongovernmental organizations filed petition MEX 2016-1, alleging the United States took inadequate action to combat sex-based discrimination in recruitment, hiring, and employment practices within its H-2 temporary visa programs. As of today, the petition remains under review by the Mexican National Administrative Office, and no response has been issued. In January 2017, the coalition submitted a supplement to the original petition, which includes Engendering Exploitation: Gender Inequality in U.S. Labor Migration Programs, a report highlighting the continued discrimination and abuse women across guestworker programs confront in their recruitment and employment in the United States.