Nestor Molina has made a living looking for Honduran workers to pick fruit in Florida. Now, some of the workers he recruited, their lawyers, and the U.S. government are looking for him. Molina, 53, is among the middlemen hired by companies to help bring foreign workers to the United States for temporary jobs. The jobs span almost every industry, from agriculture to hospitality, and the numbers of foreign workers brought to the United States have swelled in the past two decades. In the fiscal year ending last August, the government issued more than 350,000 temporary work visas.
We ended 2015 with nine posts on the issue of modern slavery in the coffeelands—this eight-part series on our research into wretched labor conditions on a small number of Brazilian coffee estates and this reflection on how that work is inspired by our mission to serve the poorest and most vulnerable people. Those posts were rather narrow in focus—one country, one specific category of labor abuse. An article we contributed to the current issue of Roast Magazine titled “Farmworkers in Coffee: Improving Conditions for the Industry’s Most Vulnerable Players” is wider in scope—it surveys the broader context of farm labor in coffee that we are working to address through our research, writing and programming.
Peru, the world’s largest producer of cocaine, has a new booming illicit business: gold. Illegal gold mining has surged in the South American country, the world’s fifth biggest gold exporter. A new Univision Investigative report shows that the criminal organizations that traffic illegal drugs have diversified and are now in the business of trading the precious metal. “There are signs that people engaged in criminal activities, like narco trafficking and terrorism are involved in illegal gold mining,” said Tania Quispe, the Director of SUNAT, Peru’s equivalent of the I.R.S. The agency is in charge of monitoring illegal gold mining.
Guatemala is among the world’s most prolific palm-oil-producing countries, but it also appears to be one of the cruelest. A new report (pdf) released by the international labor watchdog Verité details the labor and human rights problems in Guatemala’s fast-growing palm oil industry. And there are many, according to the report: Forced labor, child labor, health and safety risks, poor housing, environmental damage, and wage exploitation are just the highlights of the list of dangers facing impoverished palm oil workers and farmers in the country.