Last week, guestworker women across industries and visa categories joined forces at the three-day event The Future of (Guest)Work: Women Building Gender Equity in Labor Migration in Washington, DC.

As guestworker women shared their experiences, we witnessed the transformative power of stories. Crab pickers, cruise ship workers, domestic workers, teachers, engineers and farmworkers identified common threads: discrimination, harassment, false promises, lack of access to justice. As Sylvana Jacome, an agricultural engineer from Ecuador put it, these patterns of abuse were far too similar.

In just three days, guestworker women created a strong community that turned pain into collective power. Advocates across labor, immigrants’ rights and gender justice movements joined guestworker women to craft a vision for labor migration based on their stories. And together, we took that vision to Congress! Scroll down to learn more about the event.



Thanks to our wonderful co-sponsors who made this incredible event possible: Oxfam, AFL-CIO, American Federation of Teachers, Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Farmworker Justice, Humanity United, the International Labor Recruitment Working Group, Justice for Migrant Women, National Domestic Workers Alliance and Southern Poverty Law Center.

What happens when powerful women come together? Transformation happens. Our Future of (Guest)Work reflects women’s stories and perspectives — it is inclusive and equitable. Workers have strong protections and feel empowered to raise their voice — they have access to justice and to adequate health services. Women are safe and free.

Will you join us in building that future today?

The Future of (Guest)Work: Women Building Gender Equity in Labor Migration


Day 1: April 29, 2019

In an intimate convening, guestworker women shared their stories with one another — their journey, the choices they made and challenges they faced. Commonalities were striking among crab pickers, cruise ship workers, domestic workers, teachers, engineers and farmworkers.

“I was able to connect with my feelings and with theirs. And even if I had never met them before, I felt as if I’d known them my whole life,” said Lila Ortiz, a veterinarian recruited in Mexico.
Guestworker women set out to build their Story of Us. Workers defined their community, including the women who were in the room and others they were representing, to then build their vision to advance gender equity in labor migration.
Day 2: April 30, 2019
Guestworker women shared their vision with a diverse group of allies across movements, including labor, immigrants’ rights and gender justice. We tapped into our cross-movement motivations by framing our conversation in terms of 6 themes: dignity, health, opportunity, safety, justice and voice.
Advocates discussed strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats around building gender justice in labor migration. Finally, we identified personal-level priorities and concrete commitments in order to work towards our shared vision for 2050.
The Contratadas Chronicles: Stories of Women in (Guest)Work
In the evening, five guestworkers told their stories of power at the Eaton DC. We were thrilled to have award-winning advocate and CDM alumna Mónica Ramirez as our host for the night.
Sylvana Jacome, an agricultural engineer from Ecuador, recounted her path to freedom — from facing abusive workplace conditions that led to her health deteriorating, to fighting for justice and owning the stage with her voice.
Lila Ortiz, a Mexican veterinarian, narrated how she endured workplace conditions in a hog farm that put her personal safety at risk. Lila captivated the audience with her voice when she sang a protest song that gave her strength while working in the US.


Elisa Martinez Tovar, a former crab picker, detailed her inner struggle to leave her young kids in order to provide for them as a guestworker. She later became an active member of CDM’s Migrant Defense Committee. Elisa enjoyed sharing her personal story: “Other workers saw themselves in us. It’s encouraging to see that it’s worth sharing our stories because other women feel compelled to do the same. Some were telling their stories for the first time, and they felt liberated like someone took a weight off their shoulders.”

Day 3: May 1, 2019
On International Workers’ Day, guestworker women and allies were ready to take action. We started off with a breakfast discussion at the AFL-CIO to join forces with our allies in the labor movement.

Then, we took Congress. We met with over 30 offices to generate awareness among policymakers of the gender justice implications of guestworker visa policies. Guestworker women told their stories and spoke about how their experiences were similar — too similar. The ask was simple: do not expand these programs without strengthening worker protections. We also delivered a letter describing women’s vision for labor migration:

“We envision an alternative future for ourselves and communities — one where migrant women feel empowered to raise our voices and are not alone. This future holds concrete policy changes and shift in the ways companies and employers work […] This vision requires disassembling guestworker programs in order to build gender equity in labor migration.”

Read the full letter here!