While picking seafood with an H-2B visa, Elisa Martínez Tovar found that her workplace conditions were far from what she was promised. Her employer forced Elisa and her coworkers to live in deplorable housing. Women were channelled into lower paying tasks. Sometimes, they would go weeks without work. Their visas tied them to a single employer. And the debt they incurred to secure their jobs meant Elisa and her coworkers couldn’t leave. Over a decade ago, Elisa approached CDM to report these conditions.


Elisa became a worker leader at CDM’s Migrant Defense Committee — educating job seekers in her community about their rights, speaking with national media, and providing testimony to advocate for justice. In 2009, we collaborated closely with her and other seafood workers to launch the report Picked Apart: The Hidden Struggles of Migrant Worker Women in the Maryland Crab Industry. After years of advocating to ban illegal recruitment fees and prevent recruitment fraud, women in Elisa’s community are no longer paying to work.


But our job is not yet done. Earlier this year, when labor shortages on Maryland’s Eastern Shore dominated national headlines, crab houses called for the expansion of the H-2B program while failing to acknowledge the abuse that women face under the program.

2019 will mark 10 years since the launch of Picked Apart — and we’ll be launching a new report! We can’t wait to amplify workers’ voices