A “Yelp” or “Angie’s List” for Migrants – to avoid exploitation

Contratados.org launched in October, 2014 as a resource for workers—mostly from Mexico—to anonymously rate the employers and recruiters who bring them to the USA for temporary jobs under the H-2B, H-2A, and J-1 visa programs. It bills itself as “the Yelp for migrant workers.”

Migrants working legally in the USA on temporary visas can end up as virtual slaves. They can’t change jobs, they’re often paid less than minimum wage for 80 or more hours a week, and they can’t usually return to the U.S. to sue their employer in court—there’s no visa program for that.

Most migrants do not have smartphones, so designers created the Contratados.org website so it could also be accessed like voice mail. Much of migrants’ internet access is done in internet cafes which charge a few pesos an hour for fairly slow web service, and that meant the videos originally envisioned to be a part of the site were scrapped—too much bandwidth. Also scrapped was an interactive map of the players in the employment side of the equation—although such a map and database can be found in another section of the organization’s website. (It was built from public documents in order to help legislators understand what is happening in the migrant labor program.)

What did get into contratados.org are audio novelas—short dramas telling workers what to watch out for, what to expect, and who to contact in case of trouble as they uproot their lives to try to make a living here doing seasonal work. And they can listen to information about their rights and follow along with comic-book-style illustrations.

Full story at Baltimore’s CityPaper.

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