Today, on International Migrants Day, we’re thinking of Jesús and Rigoberto — they’re closing 2018 on a high note. Jesús Silva and Rigoberto Zepeda reached out to us two years ago when they faced abuse while working in the forestry industry with H-2B visas. But now we’re celebrating: we just settled their case alongside our allies at California Rural Legal Assistance for $500,000 USD.
Today, we’re thinking about all of the men and women whose lives we’ve touched this year. In 2018, we provided legal support to 358 workers like Jesús and Rigoberto. Our team traveled to equip 3,471 individuals with information about migrant workers’ rights. We released two reports documenting the experiences of hundreds of workers who have faced recruitment and workplace abuse. We removed the border as a barrier to justice for 64workers by facilitating the distribution of $1,002,082.37 USD. Scroll down to check out five success stories from 2018, featuring Migrant Defense Committee members Javier, Adareli and Leonardo!
Workers have led CDM to a string of impressive victories this year — setting the stage for an exciting 2019. And we need you to fulfill our vision. By making a donation, you will:
- Partner with Javier to prevent recruitment fraud with our organizing initiatives;
- Amplify the voices of crab pickers like Adareli in a new report highlighting systemic abuse in the H-2B program;
- Join Leonardo in implementing the labor protections in the new trinational trade deal; and
- Help us provide additional legal support for workers like Jesús and Rigoberto.
Year in Review
For CDM, advancing migrant justice means building relationships with communities and with allies. It means exploring innovative ways to fulfill our vision and fighting alongside workers. Here are some of our favorite impact stories from 2018!
- We recently celebrated a great legal victory for clients Jesús Silva Rodríguez and Rigoberto Zepeda Loa, who worked in California and other western states on H-2B visas. These forestry workers faced a series of recruitment and workplace abuses, including unreimbursed visa and travel costs, systematic underpayment wages under state and federal law, and lack of access to clean water and bathrooms. After fighting for more two years alongside co-counsel at California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), we settled the case for $500,000 USD. Once approved by the federal court in Sacramento, this judgment will compensate Jesús, Rigoberto and other H-2B workers whose wages were stolen. It will also serve as a reminder to H-2B employers that they face serious consequences for violating their workers’ rights.
- When a fraudulent recruiter arrived in Ojo de Agua, a community in Central Mexico, he convinced three men to pay for a job in the US. But their sister, who had attended one of our Know-Your-Rights workshops, was ready to use Contratados.org — our Yelp++ for migrant workers. They found the scammer on Contratados.org and reported him to local authorities. The following day, they got their money back. Our outreach team has led 29 workshops in 22 communities across Mexico in 2018 — and we’re not done yet!
Established under NAFTA, the TN visa is loosely regulated, largely overlooked and rife with abuse. We had to take action. Lured by the promise of valuable experience in animal nutrition and breeding programs at a dairy farm, two Mexican veterinarians were instead forced to perform manual labor and fired when they questioned their assignment. In November, CDM and our co-counsels at Legal Action of Wisconsin reached a settlement against the Wisconsin farm for misrepresenting the terms of employment for the two veterinarians.
- It’s been over a year since Comité members Adareli Ponce and Leonardo Cortez testified before the U.S. Trade Representative to strengthen migrant protections in the new NAFTA. Our trinational campaign involved mobilizing allies along the trade corridor, organizing workers and pressuring negotiators. Two weeks ago, our efforts paid off when leaders from Mexico, the United States and Canada signed the renegotiated agreement — which includes a labor chapter and outlines protections for the millions of Mexican workers who are vulnerable to abuse.
- With support from our outreach team, Comité member Javier recorded a spot on the local radio alerting job seekers in Hidalgo about recruitment scams. Soon after, we began getting calls from people in Hidalgo who had heard our spot and were seeking to verify an offer — we realized the segment was airing after a job ad for the company Superior Forestry. After calling the company, we discovered that the recruiter, who was asking for over a year’s worth of minimum wage in exchange for a job, was not linked to Superior Forestry. In addition to stopping callers from paying and to alerting other job seekers through traditional and social media, our team is accompanying workers who did pay in taking legal action.