Together, we have fought alongside migrant workers to advance justice across borders. Today, International Migrants Day, is an opportunity to chronicle our impact throughout 2019 and let our successes fuel our goals and fight in 2020. Scroll down to read five of our favorite impact stories from 2019!
Our team equipped 7,825 individuals with information about migrant workers’ rights, meeting them in their home communities, while processing their visas in Monterrey and at their workplaces in the United States. This year, we provided legal support to 560 workers. We resolved their cases, referred them to services in the U.S. and Mexico, and helped them avoid fraudulent recruiters. We achieved justice for workers who had experienced discrimination, wage theft, retaliation and labor trafficking.
From dairy workers on TN visas and farmworker women to crab pickers on the Eastern Shore and restaurant workers in Ocean City, we built relationships and fostered trust to fight together for migrant justice. Thanks to our work alongside communities, workers’ voices have shaped policy debates. Migrant workers shared their experiences to influence the labor provisions of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement, and they commented on changes to the agricultural and summer work travel visa programs.
CDM represented five former H-2B visa workers, including Comité member Jorge Palafox, in a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Labor in a first step toward recovering the wages they are rightfully owed. Despite winning a case against employers in 2013, appeals have been languishing in DOL administrative limbo for six years, unresolved. We won’t rest until DOL tells H-2B employers to pay the wage rates the law requires.
This year, our legal team filed four whistleblower complaints with OSHA to support migrant workers who stood up for their right to a safe workplace. Migrant workers often work in high-risk industries, with hazardous substances and without adequate training or protective equipment.
Their employers frequently retaliate when they speak out about unsafe conditions. We hope this sends a message: employers cannot get away with silencing workers who fight for justice.
The State Department immediately took notice of the report “Shining a Light on Summer Work”. Authored by the International Labor Recruitment Working Group, which CDM chairs, the report is detailed abuse under the J-1 Summer Work Travel visas. We garnered coverage in Bloomberg, Politico, The Guardian, Reuters, and EFE.
Proposed rules seeking to protect J-1 SWT workers had been shelved since January 2017. Yet just 10 days after we launched our report, the State Department sent these rules to the White House for review.
This summer, DOL published several proposed regulations that threaten to regress key protections for H-2A agricultural migrant workers. With these new rules, migrant workers would essentially be paying to work by absorbing hundreds of dollars in travel expenses and lower workers’ wages in several states. Our team mobilized, reaching workers in person and via Contratados.org. Thanks to our efforts, dozens of migrant workers submitted comments to DOL, to ensure that their voices and perspectives are reflected in the new rules.
Contratados.org took center stage at the annual meeting of our Migrant Defense Committee (Comité). Worker leaders planned the next stage of its evolution into a “Pathway to Portability,” which would allow workers to change jobs in the U.S. ensuring higher wages and more protection from abuse and fraud.
Whether the Comité is speaking to media, leading workshops or talking one-on-one with fellow workers in their communities, speaking out is power. The Comité immediately put their skills to work. By the end of their meeting, Comité members equipped over 200 workers with information about their rights in Miahuatlan de Porfirio Díaz. Energy was high — it was an immediate affirmation of how leadership development builds worker power.