Building Worker Power and Transparency in Labor Recruitment
Every year, nearly 200,000 Mexican workers are recruited to the United States for low-wage jobs on H-2A and H-2B visas. Many are lured by promises of higher wages and better working conditions that turn out to be illusory. Many suffer grievous abuses, ranging from gender discrimination to forced labor and trafficking. Fearful of deportation, and often severely in debt to those who recruited them, migrant workers seldom feel empowered to speak out about labor abuses and stand up for their rights. Many have virtually no access to information about what those rights even are. Over the past two years, CDM has collaborated with migrant worker leaders across Mexico and the United States to build Contratados.org, a powerful digital platform and interactive set of tools that enable workers to organize and build power. Through Know-Your-Rights resources, a phone hotline, a binational radio campaign, and Yelp-like reviews of employers written and shared by workers themselves, Contratados.org makes the recruitment system transparent and lets workers and advocates hold employers and recruiters accountable.
United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)
Strengthening protections for workers.
After President Trump’s announcement of his intent to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in May 2017, CDM launched a trinational, coordinated campaign with allied organizations from Mexico, the United States, and Canada to strengthen protections for migrant workers in the renegotiation process. Learn more.
SANA — Health Within Our Reach
Campaign to Prevent and Control Infectious Diseases Among Migrant Workers in Protein Processing Industries
In 2020, CDM partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop and coordinate a campaign targeting migrant workers in protein processing facilities in Delaware-Maryland-Virginia (Delmarva) region to inform them about prevention of infectious diseases and the legal protections available to them, through linguistically and culturally appropriate materials and outreach strategies.
CDM is coordinating a regional network of organizations, including el Comité de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agrícolas (CATA), Legal Aid Justice Center, Rebirth, Inc. and UFCW Local 27. The Migrant Clinicians Network is providing technical assistance to the project. Learn more.
Migrant Defense Committee
Migrants empowering migrants to become human rights advocates.
The Comité de Defensa del Migrante is a group of community-based leaders who organize and empower migrant workers to defend themselves and educate their co-workers. Comprised of migrants and former migrants, authorized and unauthorized, and the family members of workers, the Comité forms a human chain across Mexico and the United States and a permanent presence among workers’ communities. Comité leaders train other migrants to become human rights defenders, giving thousands of workers on both sides of the border the power to seize the initiative in ending workplace abuses.
Migrant workers with marginalized gender identities such as women, trans, non-binary and queer individuals, among others, are particularly at risk of facing discrimination, sexual harassment, gender-based violence, and human trafficking. In collaboration with migrant workers, ProMu*Mi is a project that unites all of CDM, in collaboration with migrant workers, to advance justice and policies aimed at facing these challenges and reaching lasting solutions. Through ProMu*Mi we fight to advance gender equity and equality with an intersectional and holistic approach that recognizes racial, national, sexual and socio-economic identity in a coordinated, intentional, and attentive way. Learn more.
Mexico United 2026
Mexico United 2026 is a civil society and labor coalition to ensure that Mexico, the US, and Canada are abiding by their commitments to uphold human rights as hosts of the 2026 FIFA World Cup. The 2026 World Cup—the first time three countries have jointly hosted the competition—presents a historic opportunity to address workers’ rights in labor migration, preventing the abuses plaguing past competitions. Our project combines organizing, coalition-building, and media advocacy efforts to hold stakeholders accountable for their commitments to human rights. Over the next five years, our coalition will deploy a targeted educational outreach, media, and policy advocacy campaign centered around workers’ experiences, voices, and priorities in the lead-up to the 2026 World Cup. We’re especially proud to be collaborating with our allies at Partners of the Americas, Centro de Reflexión y Acción Laboral (CEREAL) and the Red de Mujeres Sindicalistas (RMS) in this project. Learn more.
Past Campaigns and Initiatives
The North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation Petition (NAALC)
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). Learn more.
Fair Workers, Fair Wages Campaign
Ending systemic abuse in the travelling fair and carnival industry.
CDM is leading the Fair Workers, Fair Wages! campaign to end systemic, repeated human rights abuses in traveling fairs and carnivals, where thousands of H-2B migrants labor in unsafe and unjust conditions. The campaign began through the efforts of Comité de Defensa del Migrante leader José de Lira, who alerted CDM to abuses by New York-based Dreamland Amusements, Inc. Forced to live in insect-infested housing and subjected to discrimination and unsafe working conditions, workers received $275 to $350 each week, regardless of the number of hours they worked. De Lira’s efforts led to an investigation by the New York Attorney General and a settlement that secured hundreds of thousands of dollars in back wages as well as safeguards for labor and civil rights. His courageous work has inspired an industry-wide investigation of abuses in the fair industry, with CDM bringing cases against companies in North Carolina, Georgia, and California. Our continued litigation effort and educational campaign aims to ensure the border is never a barrier for justice for migrant workers.
Justice in Recruitment Project
Harnessing the power of data to uncover systemic abuses.
A groundbreaking workers’ rights initiative to investigate and uncover the actors and processes in low-wage labor recruitment along the Mexico-U.S. migrant stream. By identifying international labor recruiters, employers, and their networks and by assessing the trends in their interactions and practices, the JIR is generating previously unavailable information about pre-employment and post-employment conditions of migrant workers. Using this data, CDM, migrant workers, and cross-sector allies are addressing major, systemic abuses in guestworker recruitment through outreach and education, strategic litigation, and policy advocacy.
The Binational Labor Justice Initiative
A crossborder alliance to provide legal aid to workers
In 2007, CDM and Proyecto de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales, A.C. (ProDESC) launched the Binational Labor Justice Initiative — a transnational dialogue on legal systems and tools to defend migrant workers’ rights and build binational alliances for legal support across the U.S.-Mexico border. As part of the Initiative, CDM and ProDESC published the Manual for Binational Justice, which describes U.S. and Mexico labor and immigration laws, to assist advocates on both sides of the border.