Wednesday, August 19, 2009

When the United Food and Commercial Workers-Canada (UFCW-C) signed up migrant farm workers at Mayfair Farms the other year it seemed like a breakthrough and the start of an encouraging trend. It was less encouraging this year when workers at Mayfair voted to decertify the union, citing lack of benefit from their membership in the union. While it may or may not have been true that the UFCW union didn't do all that it could to press workers' interests a brief glance at the figures presented showed that they did benefit, even if only marginally. At the time when this was reported I was suspicious that there was more to the story than was initially reported.
Indeed there was, as the following from the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), with information from our local paper the Winnipeg Free Press lays bare. The first question was whether union supporters had been deliberately weeded out from the pool of migrant labour returning to Canada each spring. Yup true, but that wasn't all. No less a personage than the Mexican Consul took it upon himself earlier this year to visit all farms in Manitoba employing Mexican nationals to give a little "sweet advise". Read all about it below.
I wonder how you say "leaned on" in Spanish ?
Mexican consul tampered with migrant farm vote
Threatened Mayfair Farms workers with blacklisting before union decertification vote was held.

Winnipeg (17 Aug. 2009) - The Mexican consul visited migrant Mexican farm workers in Manitoba and threatened to blacklist them from ever coming to Canada again if they did not vote to decertify their union at Mayfair Farms in Portage La Prairie, says a spokesperson for group supporting the workers.

The vote to abandon the union, which they had previously chosen to join, was announced earlier this month.

Jennifer deGroot, a member of a coalition supporting seasonal workers in Manitoba and a research associate with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), outlines what happened in an article published by the Winnipeg Free Press on Friday.

"Recent media reports state that workers at Mayfair Farms in Portage La Prairie chose to decertify after the long struggle to unionize," deGroot writes.

"What those reports don't talk about is the threats that workers received when they expressed interest in unionizing. At least one strong union supporter was denied return to Mayfair Farms this year," she reports.

"The day before the decertification vote the Mexican consul – which has a vested interest in keeping workers in Canada, as their remittances are a major source of national income – held a closed-door meeting with workers at Mayfair Farms.

"Early this summer the Mexican consul visited all farms with seasonal agricultural workers in Manitoba letting workers know that should they unionize they would be blacklisted.

"The lack of permanent status, the ever-present threat of being sent home, their isolation and their inability to communicate in either official language leave them among the most exploited of Canadian workers. Yet, they keep coming back."

The full Winnipeg Free Press article is available at the links below.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has signed a formal protocol with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW Canada) to support the union in its ongoing drive to organize long-exploited migrant farm workers in Canada.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE
More information:
Winnipeg Free Press: How clean are your carrots? - PDF version
More than 12,000 Mexican agricultural workers in Canada in 2009

No comments: