“The difference between staying in Honduras and leaving for the United States is not whether you have a job or not. It’s whether you have decent work,” states Tomás Membreño, President of STAS, the Honduran industrial agricultural workers’ union. He would know. In 2017, after palm oil conglomerate Grupo Jaremar used violence and unlawful firings to break STAS’s organizing efforts in the palm oil plantations, over a hundred would-be union members joined caravans headed north.
Central American migration to the United States today is sometimes framed as a humanitarian tragedy, sometimes a national security threat. Rarely, however, do we discuss the lack of decent work as a central reason for migration. Yet jobs that pay a living wage, offer fair conditions and benefits, respect fundamental rights, and give workers stability so that they can plan for their families’ future are fundamental to allow people from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador to choose not to migrate. Decent work is also a fundamental feature of fair migration. It is the missing pillar of US policy in the region.