Baltimore migrant workers’ rights organization gets federal grant to fight gender-based workplace harassment

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Rachel Micah-Jones is the founder and executive director of Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, a non-profit receiving a grant to combat violence and harassment against women in the workplace.

The U.S. Department of Labor Tuesday awarded over $1.5 million to five community organizations, including a Baltimore nonprofit, “to prevent and respond to gender-based violence and harassment against underserved and marginalized women workers.”

The department’s Women’s Bureau Director Wendy Chun-Hoon said these Fostering Access, Rights and Equity, or FARE, grants are part of the department’s work towards meeting the goals set out in President Joe Biden’s national action plan for addressing and preventing gender-based violence.


Chun-Hoon said that gender and racial equity are preconditions for physical, emotional and psychological safety in the workplace.

“Some one in five workers is reporting at least some form of violence and harassment during their working life,” Chun-Hoon said. “That’s the big picture, that this issue of gender-based violence and harassment specifically is among us, right, it’s widespread.”


Baltimore-based Centro de los Derechos del Migrante Inc. will receive $350,000 by the end of September. The other four recipient organizations, which are based in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York and Texas, received grants in the range of $250,000-$350,000.

“It seems like a really good fit for us because there was an explicit gender component,” Rachel Micah-Jones, the founder and executive director of Centro, said. “A lot of our work has been around highlighting discrimination and gender-based violence faced by migrant worker women.”

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Micah-Jones founded Centro nearly 20 years ago to support migrant workers. The organization both teaches workers about their rights and helps defend workers when those rights are violated, Micah-Jones said. The organization has offices in Baltimore and Juxtlahuaca, Oaxaca, which is in southwestern Mexico, in addition to its headquarters in Mexico City.

Chun-Hoon said the grant money should be used to develop and implement, with worker input, strategies to “disrupt, mitigate or prevent workplace gender-based violence and harassment before it happens.”

Micah-Jones said common issues migrant women can encounter in the workplace include pregnancy discrimination, sexual harassment and pay disparity.

According to an analysis published by the International Labour Organization, Lloyd’s Register Foundation and Gallup in 2022, migrant women were almost twice as likely as non-migrant women to report sexual violence and harassment at work.

Micah-Jones also noted that women migrant workers can get funneled into “very specific jobs” on the lower end of the pay scale. For example, she knows women who came to the U.S. over 10 years ago to work as crab pickers along the Eastern Shore who have still not risen to higher-paying supervisor roles.

“It’s just a pattern that we see over and over again, where women are sort of sorted into different jobs than men based on cultural norms,” Chun-Hoon said. “When you are by far in a minority of a certain occupation, you suddenly become very conspicuous. And in fact, a lot of women in some of these male-dominated jobs that are higher paying are reporting higher incidences of gender-based violence and harassment.”


Micah-Jones said Centro will use its grant money to guarantee workers will be able to report abuse and ensure their workforces are “safer, more inclusive and more just.”