Work of the Future

Contratados.org

Enabling migrant workers to make informed work choices, helping to protect their rights and ensure their safety

Team Lead

Rachel Micah-Jones

Basic Information

Our Solution

Contratados.org

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Our tagline:

Addressing shortcoming in guestworker programs that leave migrants vulnerable to abuse through job portability and access to vital job opportunities.
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Our pitch:

Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers are recruited each year to perform seasonal, often high-risk, low-wage manual labor in the United States under a variety of visa programs. These workers pick our vegetables, build our homes, and care for our children. As immigration enforcement programs expand, employer use of the these programs is exploding, as much as tenfold in some industries and localities. It is virtually impossible for visa holding migrant workers, 'guestworkers,' to find a new employer once they experience abuse. Workers' visas are tied to their employer, and they often have to choose between their safety and their ability to work. Recruiters and employers hold all of the power in the current system, and are shielded by a lack of oversight by the U.S. government. Workers face disturbingly common patterns of abuse, including fraud, wage theft, discrimination, and labor trafficking.

CDM's Contratados.org contributes to efforts to hold employers and recruiters accountable by providing key information to empower migrant workers to make informed migration choices. The Contratados.org platform currently allows workers to share anonymous information on workplace and recruitment abuses and to access rights education materials and resources to address abuses. With MIT's support, Contratados.org will provide workers with access to job opportunities through a specific job board for these niche jobs requiring visas and the employers that are allowed to recruit these types of workers. By creating a pathway to portability, migrants will be able to escape abuse without endangering their livelihood.
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Where our solution team is headquartered or located:

Baltimore, United States of America
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The dimensions of the Challenge our solution addresses:

  • Upskilling, Reskilling, and Job Matching
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Our solution's stage of development:

Growth

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About Your Solution

What makes our solution innovative:

This year, a record number of low-wage guestworkers on H-2 visas will work in the United States. The opacity of the recruitment process and protection gaps in the U.S. leave these workers vulnerable to exploitation and subject to deportation if they seek to leave their sponsor employers. To meet this growing challenge, CDM will facilitate labor market mobility through a specialized job board to allow guestworkers to identify employers that are eligible to employ them under their visa program. This pathway to portability will be accompanied by working conditions reports, information about labor and employment rights, and avenues to access to resources, including legal services.
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How technology is integral to our solution:

Contratados.org transforms a traditionally in-person recruitment process. By creating a job-board on Contratados.org, workers will have access to many more jobs and to more information sourced through the web than ever before. Currently, workers are largely recruited in their communities to travel to the U.S., and are offered one job without supporting information. Once abused in the U.S., they are typically not able to find another employer that is approved to employ them under their visa. Through our board, workers compare multiple job opportunities alongside information about the employer before accepting jobs, and, will be able to leave abusive situations.
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Our solution goals over the next 12 months:

CDM will consider the project a success if workers use Contratados.org to educate themselves on their rights and employment mobility options.
Contratados.org's goals are:
- Increase the unique visits to the website
- Increase the amount of anonymous worker-generated content on the website and provide them with real-time, critical information
- Offset the cost of running the platform.
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Our vision over the next three to five years to grow and scale our solution to affect the lives of more people:

Contratados.org will continue to be the leading resource for low-wage workers in the U.S. and will implement new initiatives to transform the power dynamics in guestworker programs. Additionally, the website will create a pathway to portability for migrant workers with guestworker visas by providing a direct link to employers eligible to hire them. Workers will be empowered through access to more job opportunities at once and more holistic information on those opportunities. These tools will empower migrant workers to self-regulate the recruitment process, 'vote with their feet,' and more effectively organize to hold employers and recruiters accountable.
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Our website

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The regions where we will be operating in the next 12 months:

  • US and Canada
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How we will reach and retain our customers or beneficiaries:

Contratados.org was co-designed with migrants to fill their need for information with their specific technology literacy and access in mind. By building a digital platform leveraging easy-to-use technology that requires minimal data, CDM will make job portability and labor power a reality for migrants. Through Contratados.org and the related job board, we will reach workers in their communities with technology that is accessible to them to allow workers to choose their workplaces, to demand better pay and conditions, and to hold employers and recruiters accountable.
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How many people we are currently serving with our solution:

CDM found that due to a lack of crucial information, 1 in 10 workers surveyed reported paying illegal fees during recruitment. Contratados.org and our related social media presences have prevented fraud, saving hundreds of workers from becoming indebted and even more vulnerable during recruitment and employment. Overall, Contratados.org has empowered almost half a million workers with critical rights information and resources to prevent and address abuses during recruitment and employment. The website has scaled CDM's impact dramatically by providing direct access for workers to anonymous working condition reports, resources and rights education materials.
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About Your Team

How our solution team is organized:

Non-Profit

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The skills our solution team has that will enable us to attract the different resources needed to succeed and make an impact:

Founder and Executive Director, Rachel Micah-Jones, is an award-winning leader in the migrant and workers' rights movement. She focuses on reforming international labor recruitment and H-2A and H-2B programs. Julia Coburn, Director of Operations in Mexico and Migrant Women's Project Coordinator, documented violations in international labor recruitment. Sara Geurtsen, Strategic Initiatives Director, who manages Contratados.org has 10+ years experience in digital media, strategy and partnership building. Lilian Lopez, CDM's Outreach Paralegal and Network Liaison, has significant experience working with Mexican and Central American migrants. Collectively, our team's decades of experience working alongside migrants have informed Contratados.org's transparency tool.
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Our revenue model:

To post on Contratados.org, employers must have permission from the U.S. government to hire guestworkers. They'll also agree to ensure rights protections. Workers will be able to view jobs alongside anonymous working condition reports, rights information -- and other jobs. With postings across industries, Contratados.org will encourage employer competition and increase transparency for workers.

Though the platform is inherently scalable, the job board will focus initially on the over 250,000 annual H-2 low wage guestworkers in agriculture, construction, hospitality and other industries. One year after launch, it'll expand its reach to approximately 175,000 additional annual J-1 visa holders (e.g., au pairs, camp counselors, etc.). In year two, CDM will scale to reach additional guestworkers and employers in other industries, including care and education. Contratados.org already provides resources for these workers. The staged roll-out will allow for targeted in-person and digital outreach in each category and new product features, as well as the ability to refine the strategy.
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Partnership Potential

Why we are applying to Solve:

If we get support from MIT Solve we will conduct outreach to potential employer-users of the platform. then we will use that prize money to do a simplified, small-scale pilot of the job board. Regardless, we would leverage the recognition from being named a Solver team to open doors with other funders and potential partners that might be able to support the creation of a pathway to portability for migrant workers.
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The key barriers for our solution:

1. The biggest risk for continuation of the platform and the related impact as the cessation of funding. It may be possible to offset some of the operations costs of the website through charging a nominal fee to employers for job postings -- therefore leading employers to fund increased worker support.
2. CDM has performed a legal analysis of the potential job board, and found liability risks only associated with editing the content and direct job matching. To mitigate these risks, we will not engage in these activities.
3. Individuals' willingness to use a platform.
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The types of connections and partnerships we would be most interested in if we became Solvers:

  • Other (Please Explain Below)
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Solution Team

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