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ILAB’s work in Central America zeroes in on the importance of protecting workers’ rights and expanding access to good jobs. Good jobs contribute to economic stability and strengthen rules and principles for a just society. When absent, these mitigating factors push workers toward irregular migration. When workers do choose to migrate, we work with government partners, migrant workers. and workers’ organizations to ensure they understand and can access their labor rights throughout the migration process. This includes ethical and fair recruitment, decent work conditions in the U.S., and safe return and access to good jobs in their countries of origin.

  • Good jobs are an essential component of the White House strategy to make immigration a choice, rather than the only option. When people have dignity at work and earn family-sustaining wages, they can be more rooted and engaged in their home communities and societies.
  • ILAB has a long-term commitment to promoting safe, decent, family-sustaining jobs in Central America that enable workers to thrive in their communities instead of being pushed to migrate for economic stability.
  • Investments that strengthen labor rights – including the right to collectively bargain – and expand access to decent jobs are essential to fostering democratic space and economic stability across the region.

Strategy to Address the Root Causes of Migration in Central America:

Central America is a major priority for the United States government’s foreign, migration, and trade policies. Our work is at the nexus of these three areas globally, and ILAB has historically had a major focus on Central America, particularly El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras (collectively known as “Northern Central America”), that has deepened under the Biden-Harris Administration.

The Biden-Harris Administration’s Strategy to Address the Root Causes of Migration in Central America (RCS) made labor rights a major priority. Complementary Administration priorities that touch on labor and Northern Central America include:

These priorities and initiatives present further opportunities for ILAB to deepen the impact of its work in Northern Central America by connecting labor issues to holistic and well-coordinated foreign policy and assistance; drawing connections between domestic and foreign policy such as the Good Jobs Initiative and White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment; providing expertise to drive the implementation of the strategy and shining a spotlight on labor; and scaling up existing activities in the region to achieve meaningful, sustainable results.

Our Tools

Labor Diplomacy:

ILAB’s labor diplomacy in the region includes frequent travel to understand the local context, build relationships, oversee technical assistance, and identify opportunities for positive, proactive engagement. This includes high-level visits to underscore the importance of labor issues and the United States’ willingness to partner with like-minded entities to advance labor rights, and incorporating labor diplomacy into broader USG diplomatic efforts. ILAB’s first-ever labor attaché in the region deployed to Guatemala City, Guatemala in April 2023, to deepen our engagement, expertise, network – and ultimately, our impact.

Labor in the United States-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR):

The Labor Chapter of the CAFTA-DR includes numerous labor commitments. Most central to ILAB’s trade enforcement work is the enforceable commitment that governments “shall not fail to effectively enforce [their] labor laws, through a sustained or recurring course of action or inaction, in a manner affecting trade.” The Labor Chapter also calls upon governments not to waive or derogate labor laws to encourage trade or investment, to provide procedural guarantees to workers and employers, to collaborate on labor issues through the Labor Cooperation and Capacity Building Mechanism, and to provide a process for the public to file complaints alleging that a government is not meeting its commitments.

The US-Honduras Labor Rights Monitoring and Action Plan is a bilateral agreement to bring Honduras into compliance with its CAFTA-DR labor commitments.

ILAB Technical Assistance:

ILAB’s technical assistance in Northern Central America deploys USG resources to promote decent work and labor rights. ILAB has seven active projects in Northern Central America totaling approximately $40 million. These projects build the capacities of Ministries of Labor to effectively enforce labor laws; promote economic opportunities for women, youth, and minority populations; help employers improve working conditions; and strengthen the capacity of civil society and worker organizations to advocate for labor rights.

Our Impact

  • ILAB’s leadership and staff have met with over 100 unions and civil society organizations and approximately 30 businesses and industry associations to align our actions with the local context throughout Northern Central America.
  • ILAB’s joint efforts with the government of Honduras to improve labor law enforcement under the US-Honduras Labor Rights Monitoring and Action Plan resulted in the first-time collection of fines under the 2017 labor inspection law, sending a strong signal to employers that labor rights must be respected.
  • The government of Guatemala and ILAB launched a workplan to improve delivery of assistance to workers under the CAFTA-DR labor cooperation and capacity-building mechanism.
  • ILAB’s project with the Solidarity Center, an M-POWER initiative, trained more than 400 workers on labor and human rights, communication, and union skills building.
  • ILAB’s project with La Isla Network inaugurated activities with Centers of Excellence from the sugar sector in all three Northern Central America countries to improve health outcomes for workers at risk of kidney failure.
  • The government of Honduras adopted the DOL-funded Futuros Brillantes project’s community-level child labor committee model. The project has helped over 6,600 children, 1,800 families, and 19,000 workers.
  • ILAB projects helped the Ministries of Labor of Honduras and Guatemala to digitize their operations, leading to shorter processing times and increased transparency and accountability.
  • ILAB supported the establishment of a permanent mechanism for tripartite dialogue in Honduras by combining labor diplomacy, trade engagement, and technical assistance efforts.
  • ILAB-funded Futuros Brillantes is conducting a child labor survey in Honduras, providing updated, reliable statistics on this key issue for the first time since 2002.
  • DOL trained over 190 Consular officials from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras on the rights of migrant workers in the United States.