Protecting Migrant Worker Rights

October 4, 2018

Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. (CDM) supports Mexico-based migrant workers in defending and protecting their rights as they move between their home communities in Mexico and their workplaces in the United States. With its binational, multilingual staff and geographic reach, it seeks to overcome the border as a barrier to justice. With support from Voqal, CDM worked tirelessly to ensure migrant workers’ rights were protected under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) during recent renegotiation talks.

CDM mobilized allies across Mexico, the United States and Canada to ensure migrant workers’ rights were strengthened under NAFTA. It advocated for the elimination of barriers to justice and benefits and for the inclusion of a clear, accessible and enforceable labor dispute resolution mechanism. Bringing policy expertise, media acumen, organizing power and experience with the existing NAFTA labor side accord to bear, CDM also lifted workers through migrants’ participation in public debates, engagement in social media and education of policymakers.

The power of these efforts is exemplified in CDM member, Adareli. She is a leader in CDM’s Migrant Defense Committee. For nearly a decade, Adareli has advocated for migrant worker justice, sharing her story as a migrant worker in chocolate factories and seafood processing. In 2016, CDM supported Adareli in filing a petition under the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC). Adareli’s petition is directed at the U.S. government’s failure to effectively enforce United States laws with respect to discrimination. Adareli was denied access to visa categories with higher pay and stronger worker protections and assigned roles based on gender upon arriving in the U.S.

Through CDM’s campaign for stronger worker protections under the new NAFTA, Adareli testified before a panel of government officials at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, met with members of Congress and organized worker leaders across Mexico to submit comments and position statements. In November, Mexico’s National Women’s Institute awarded her a national prize. Adareli says she migrates to the U.S. to work because there is no economic opportunity in her hometown. Given the inextricable relationship between trade and migration, voices like hers are central to CDM’s efforts to ensure that abuses of migrant workers do not undermine stronger labor standards under a new NAFTA.

CDM’s efforts to empower migrant workers is an important part of the fight to create a more socially equitable world. Voqal is proud to have supported its efforts to protect the rights of everyday people in this very complex trade agreement negotiation and looks forward to its continued work on behalf of migrant workers across North America.