New Defender Training in Central America – Day Three
The final day explored in detail the goals, commitments, and activities of the Global Workers Defender Network. The framework we launched in 2008 has matured and evolved as we have expanded the Network to more regions.
New Defender Training in Central America – Day Two
Day Two of the training ambitiously covered numerous topics including: wage and hour laws (i.e. basic minimum wage issues), workplace health and safety, unions, farmworkers, and human trafficking. The day also included a first for us, one virtual session led by an immigration lawyer in Seattle via GoToWebinar. Each session included exercises to help the participants understand and apply the law, including: a True and False foot race on comparative legal systems, a game of Jeopardy to identify safety violations in the workplace, and a version of Balderdash to discern false answers on the H-2 visa. The fun activities kept the participants actively engaged.
New Defender Training in Central America – Day One
35 human rights advocates from Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and the United States gathered in Choluteca, Honduras, a small town in the farm belt of southern Honduras, for the first day of the Fourth Global Workers Defender Network Training. Some participants travelled more than eleven hours to make it to the event.
Sister Valdette, a Brazilian nun of the Scalibrini order, invited Cathleen to the Center for Returned Migrants, an office she runs in the airports. The sister has achieved such prominence in Honduras for serving deported—“returned” as she more appropriately calls them—migrants that she has changed the national dialogue on the issue and now regular receives national awards for her work.
In 2012, San Pedro Sula gained the unwelcome infamy of having the highest murder rate in the world outside of a war zone. The U.S. Peace Corps, as well as many other international organizations, have pulled out due to the violence. Although Global Workers travels to many places under US State Department travel advisories, this was the most challenging and the place to enact the security precautions we have developed.
An organization Cathleen was interested in meeting, ERIC, a Jesuit organization that addresses various human rights issues, one of them being migration, invited her to attend the launch of their report, Third Public Opinion Survey of Honduras. The press conference was packed and there were headlines for the rest of the week. The survey painted a dismal picture of Honduras today—a country on the brink of political collapse.
Today Cathleen met with the Canadian embassy to discuss the temporary foreign worker program to Canada. There are two known recruiters to Canada and purportedly a third. We have received various reports of worker abuse both in Canada and Honduras. Cathleen reached out to the embassy to see how they handled complaints from workers and efforts to combat the chronic fraud around these programs (people “sell” visas to unsuspecting and hopeful migrants). The embassy has structured itself to do very little to make the program transparent and abuse free.
Executive Director, Cathleen Caron, travelled to Honduras this week to solidify the list of organizations that will be invited to the upcoming training for new members of the Global Workers Defender Network-Central America. Over the first days in the country’s capital, Tegucigalpa, she met with a women’s rights organization, university professor, Catholic nuns, the Labor Ministry and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that work with migrants.
On her second trip to Honduras, Cathleen travelled to the southern pacific coast, the heart of agricultural production. This zone is home to vast plantations, many foreign-owned, of melons, okra, sugar cane, and shrimp farms. Many of these farms pay below the minimum wage and it seems that there is little that can be done to make them comply with the most basic labor laws. It is no coincidence that many Hondurans from this area choose to migrate.
Cathleen Caron, Executive Director, has travelled twice to Honduras as she expands Global Workers to additional countries in Central America. The first visit was to the country’s capital, Tegucigalpa. In the capital she met with over nine non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and government representatives to start the process of identifying organizations to join the growing Global Workers Defender Network, and learn about the migration challenges in Honduras. Honduras is a complicated country. While drug trafficking has caused a high level of violence for many years, the 2009 coup d’état has caused this country to teeter on the edge of a completely failed state. The level of political violence, manifested in assassinations of human rights activist and journalists, has reached levels worse than Guatemala, the historically violent country to the north currently presided over by a general accused of genocide. In this context, it is no surprise that Honduran nationals migrate (flee, really) more than any other Central American.
The mission of the Global Workers Justice Alliance is to combat worker exploitation by promoting portable justice for transnational migrants through a cross-border network of worker advocates and resources.
Global Workers coined the term portable justice to describe the right and ability of transnational migrant workers to access justice in the countries of employment even after they have departed for their home countries.