Building Worker Power and Transparency in Labor Recruitment

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Every year, more than 100,000 Mexican workers are recruited to the United States for low-wage jobs on H-2A and H-2B visas. For many internationally recruited workers, the promises of higher wages and better working conditions are illusory. Many suffer grievous abuses in international labor recruitment, ranging from gender discrimination to recruitment fees to forced labor and trafficking. These recruitment abuses often lay the foundation for abusive employment conditions. Recruitment debt often discourages migrant workers, who are bound by their visa to work for a single US employer, from speaking out about labor abuses in the workplace and standing up for their rights.

At the root of these problems is one fundamental flaw: the recruitment process is controlled by employers and their recruiters. Workers have virtually no access to information that would allow them to make informed decisions and protect their rights. will fill this critical information vacuum.

Over the past two years, CDM has collaborated with internationally recruited migrant worker leaders across Mexico and the United States to build, a website and set of powerful, interactive tools that enable workers to organize and build power. provides migrant workers with a space to share and access previously unavailable information about recruitment and employment under the H-2 program. The project makes the recruitment system transparent and gives workers and advocates powerful tools to hold employers and recruiters accountable through a system of Yelp-like reviews that migrant workers will write based on their personal recruitment and employment experiences. Workers are empowered to recognize, prevent, and denounce rights violations through access to Know-Your-Rights resources. The project is designed to reach migrant workers through the online site, a phone hotline, print materials, and a binational radio campaign.

CDM collaborated with leaders from our Migrant Defense Committee to design the tool and ensure that it meets the migrant worker community’s needs. Worker leaders participated in initial brainstorming and scoping sessions and provided many rounds of feedback on prototypes during the development phase.

Contratados is made possible by the generous support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Key additional funding was provided by the Columbia Public Interest Law Foundation, the Ms. Foundation, the Solidarity Center, the Sunlight Foundation, the General Service Foundation, and the Public Welfare Foundation.

Contratados was developed in collaboration with Research Action Design (RAD) and Studio REV-.

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