Latest News

Ending fraud and abuse in international labor recruitment!

Contratados Boletín | October 2014


International labor recruitment through temporary work programs is a growing phenomenon. As the global economy grows more interconnected and fluid, the number of workers who find employment outside of their home countries – usually in precarious, temporary work programs – will only grow. But while it is increasingly clear that these regimes of temporary employment are hotbeds of wage theft, discrimination, exploitation, and labor trafficking, there is also a growing movement to end the systemic abuses faced by internationally recruited workers. Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. (CDM) and allies around the globe are working to uncover the abuses to which these workers are subjected, to identify the systemic flaws that permit such abuses to occur, and to change the reality for internationally recruited workers through policy that reflects migrant experiences, pre-departure education, and worker organizing.

On September 30, CDM launched Contratados, a new tool to combat abuse in international labor recruitment. By giving workers a mechanism through which to identify and rate their recruiters and employers, is doing the unprecedented: bringing transparency and accountability to international labor recruitment. Developed jointly with the Migrant Defense Committee, Contratados was designed to reflect migrant worker needs and level of access to technology: employer and recruiter reviews can be submitted via internet, phone, or text message. Contratados also addresses the informational vacuum that migrant workers face while navigating the recruitment process through engaging Know-Your-Rights materials.

New California law protects internationally recruited workers

A recruitment agency office in Guanajuato, Mexico

Workers in California received great news last month when Governor Brown signed historic anti-trafficking and recruitment abuse legislation into law. The law, SB 477, will protect the 130,000 internationally recruited workers destined for California each year. California is the state with the greatest number of internationally recruited workers laboring under temporary visa programs. Under SB 477, all foreign labor recruiters will be required to register with California’s Labor Commissioner by July 1, 2016, and the Commissioner will post recruiter information online by August 1, 2016, making recruitment more transparent. Recruiters will be required to fully disclose employment conditions in writing and in the worker’s primary language and will be banned from charging recruitment fees. The law also establishes strong anti-retaliation protections for workers exercising their rights under the law.

This victory was the result of years of coalition advocacy, led by the International Labor Recruitment Working Group (ILRWG) member the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST). As the founder and an Executive Committee leader of the ILRWG, CDM recently organized a sign-on letter urging Governor Brown to support a mandatory recruitment registry, after the State of California and the Mexican Secretary of Labor and Social Welfare announced that they were establishing a joint, pilot recruiter registry, which will be voluntary.

CDM partners with Mexican and U.S. government agencies to provide pre-departure education to migrants

Participants listen to an educational workshop in San Luis Potosi

Earlier this year, CDM received a response to petitions that we and other ally organizations filed under the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC). These petitions alleged violations of workplace rights and wage regulations and demanded action on the part of the U.S. and Mexican governments. The response includes a series of pre-departure educational workshops in migrant sending communities organized in collaboration between the Mexican Secretary of Labor, the Mexican foreign Ministry, the U.S. Embassy, and civil society organizations. This month, CDM took part in workshops in Hidalgo and the State of Mexico to educate workers about workplace rights and the resources available to them when they migrate to the U.S. on H-2 visas.

Several members of the CDM staff participated in the Know-Your-Rights workshops organized in Toluca, State of Mexico, on October 2 and in Tlacotlapilco, Hidalgo, on October 24. In both presentations, CDM staff spoke about CDM's work, the rights of H-2 workers during recruitment and employment, and Contratados. Many workers and family member of workers who attended the workshops had questions about how to use Contratados to avoid fraudulent recruiters, vet employment offers, and learn about the employers and recruiters involved in recruitment for H-2 jobs. In Hidalgo, attendees commented that visa offers were on the rise in the region and relayed several reports of recruiters offering visas locally in recent months.

Contratados in the news