Show solidarity with Leon! Seeking donations for an injured migrant worker

Migrant worker Leon Ferguson at a rally in Ottawa as part of J4MW's Harvesting Freedom caravan.

Migrant worker Leon Ferguson at a rally in Ottawa in 2016 as part of J4MW’s Harvesting Freedom caravan.

We are writing with an urgent financial appeal to cover the costs of a MRI for an injured migrant farm worker from Jamaica. We are seeking to raise $1500. All monies donated will be used to cover the costs of the MRI and travel to medical appointments.

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Take action: Justice for migrant temple workers

Four workers from India who were working at a temple in Toronto

Indian migrant workers have filed a complaint with the Ontario Ministry of Labour after working at a Toronto temple. Photo: Tamil Workers Network.

Last week, migrant temple workers from India filed a complaint with Ontario’s Ministry of Labour alleging they were owed tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid wages, along with concerns over substandard housing and workplace harassment. Their case echoes the exploitation and indignities courageously raised by many migrant farm workers, adding to a long list of systemic exploitation. Under Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program, thousands of racialized workers are employed under a system of low-wage indentured labour. Their visas are ‘tied’ to an employer, and they are vulnerable to abuse because of the control employers exert over working and living conditions in Canada.
Workers deserve freedom from discrimination and exploitation. Please stand in solidarity with these workers’ demands for fairness and justice. Let’s send a strong message that this isn’t simply about one ‘bad apple’ employer abusing the program. The Temporary Foreign Worker Program is rotten to the core.

TAKE ACTION

Phone and/or email your Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) (find their contact info here). Please CC j4mw.on@gmail.com. Ask them to ensure:
  1. Both occupational health & safety and employment standards are modernized to protect the rights of low-wage migrant workers;
  2. Random spot-checks at work sites and employer-provided accommodations;
  3. Access to provincial health insurance on arrival, stopping the practice of medical repatriations whereby sick and injured migrants are sent home, and ending discriminatory workers compensation practices that deny migrant workers equal access to benefits
Phone and/or email your Member of Parliament (click here to find them by postal code), and CC j4mw.on@gmail.com. You can also tweet @AhmedDHussen and @PattyHajdu. Ask them to support:
  1. Landed status on arrival for all migrant workers;
  2. Equal access to all social programs (including Employment Insurance)
  3. Ending the unilateral repatriations of migrant workers, and implementing an appeals process so migrant workers aren’t simply deported because an employer says so.

Sample letters

Please copy the text below and use PASTE AS TEXT to remove formatting:

Dear MPP,

I was outraged to learn the recent news about exploitative working and living conditions that a group of migrant temple workers endured while working in Toronto. Unfortunately, this fits a wider pattern of exploitation and injustice that migrant activists have been raising for decades. Whether it is in the service sector, construction, agriculture or a host of other industries that employ migrant workers, there are systemic issues that the provincial government must undertake to end the injustices faced by migrant workers.

I respectfully urge you to ensure:

  • Both occupational health & safety and employment standards are modernized to protect the rights of low-wage migrant workers.
  • Random spot-checks at work sites and employer-provided accommodations.
  • Access to provincial health insurance on arrival, stopping the practice of medical repatriations whereby sick and injured  migrants are sent home, and ending discriminatory workers compensation practices that deny migrant workers equal access to benefits.

Sincerely,

[Your name and address, so they know you’re a real person]

Dear MP,

I was outraged to learn the recent news regarding exploitative working and living conditions that a group of migrant temple workers endured while working in Toronto. Unfortunately, this fits a wider pattern of exploitation and injustice that migrant activists have been raising for decades. Whether it is in the service sector, construction, agriculture or a host of other industries that employ migrant workers, there are systemic issues that the federal government must undertake to end the injustices faced by migrant workers.

I respectfully urge you to ensure:
  • Landed status on arrival for all migrant workers;
  • Equal access to all social programs (including Employment Insurance)
  • Ending the unilateral repatriations of migrant workers, and implementing an appeals process so migrant workers aren’t simply deported because an employer
[Your name and address, so they know you’re a real person]

Media coverage

Financial Solidarity Needed for Injured Migrant Worker

Dear Friends,
We are writing to ask for your solidarity and support for an injured migrant worker who desperately needs some assistance to stay in his home.

In 2014, this gentleman seriously injured his back and leg while working on a farm in Ontario. His employer repatriated him to Jamaica with no notice, waking him up at 1 am and giving him 10 minutes to pack his things before sending him on a flight back home. The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) then cut off his compensation, as they do regularly to migrant workers, forcing him to fend for himself.

He has lost so much since his workplace injury. His financial situation prevents him from getting the health care treatment he needs, and he struggles to put food on the table. Now, his landlord is trying to evict him and he needs some financial support in order to fend off the eviction.

The hope is that the WSIB will step up and provide some support, but this will take time. For right now, he needs some help to stay in his home and get him through this tough period.

Justicia for Migrant Workers is making this urgent appeal:

  1. If you can, please DONATE ONLINE at https://harvestingfreedom.org/donations/
  2. Click “special instructions to seller
  3. Write in “support for JT”.

We will be checking the instructions until February 15, 2018. If you would like to make a donation for this worker after this, please email us at j4mw.on@gmail.com so we can watch for it.

In solidarity,

Justicia for Migrant Workers

Justice for Migrant Workers

End Canada’s legal discrimination against people with disabilities

Image of Josarie Danieles and quote from her on what it has been like to spend years away from her daughter.

Josarie Danieles has been separated from her daughter Precious Ann for seven years. Seven painful years of missed birthdays, family holidays, and touching screens rather than hugging her child.

Josarie came to Canada and worked as a Caregiver. She has fulfilled all the requirements, and should have been granted permanent residency. But she is being denied because Immigration Canada believes her daughter would cause an ‘excessive demand’ on the health care system.

Many Caregivers provide highly-skilled support for Canadians with disabilities, and yet they cannot bring their own children with disabilities to join them in Canada. Likewise, Caregivers who become ill or injured on the job in Canada while they are in the qualification period to become permanent residency can be denied permanent residency under the ‘excessive demand’ clause.

A Federal Parliamentary Committee is currently looking into this issue. Add your name right now to an Open Letter from the Coalition for Migrant Worker Rights Canada and urge them to end ableist laws. When you add your name, the letter below will be emailed the appropriate Members of Parliament.

Organizations and individuals can also make written submissions to the committee via email cimm@parl.gc.ca by November 15th. 

Join us at the Niagara Wine Fest 23 Sept and take action

grapeandwinefest

Niagara’s billion-dollar wine and grape industry relies heavily on the skill and sacrifices of migrant workers, who are mainly from the Caribbean and Mexico. Their economic and social impact is far reaching, yet they remain invisible and excluded from today’s celebration.

Since 1966, thousands of migrant workers have been employed in Ontario’s fields and greenhouses. Migrant workers are tied to an employer, are denied labour and social mobility and must return home when their contracts end. Even though they pay into Canada’s social safety net, migrant workers are denied many of the basic entitlements Canadians enjoy. If we peel back the veil, we can see the wealth of local wineries and vineyards occurs on the backs of unfree workers.

When migrant workers are injured or sick they are often sent home, thus downloading healthcare costs to the families of the sick and injured. Many of these workers are no longer able to work after sustaining injuries and sicknesses while working in Canada. Between 2001-11, 787 migrant farm workers were returned to their countries of origin due to illness or injury — 98% of these repatriations were not based on workers’ requests.

Dozens of migrants have died as a result of working conditions on farms. These include the deaths of migrant farm workers such as Ned Livingston Peart, Sheldon McKenzie, Omar Graham and  Ezequiel Cervantes-Nava, all of whom died from preventable workplace accidents. To date, there has never been a coroner’s inquest into the death of a migrant farm worker anywhere in Canada.

Farm workers are not entitled to overtime pay, holiday pay or many other protections under Ontario’s Employment Standard Act. Few protections exist for farm workers from pesticides, chemicals or dangerous working conditions.

TAKE ACTION:

Phone and/or email your Member of Parliament (click here to find them by your postal code), and CC J4mw.on@gmail.com. You can also tweet @AhmedDHussen and @PattyHajdu.
Ask them to support:

  1. Landed status on arrival for all migrant workers;
  2. Equal access to all social programs (including Employment Insurance)
  3. Ending the unilateral repatriations of migrant workers, and implementing an appeals process so migrant workers aren’t simply deported because an employer says so.

Phone and or email your MPP. Ask them to ensure:

  1. Both occupational health & safety and employment standards are modernized to protect the rights of low-wage migrant workers.
  2. Random spot-checks at farm sites and employer-provided accommodations.
  3. Access to provincial health insurance on arrival, stopping the practice of medical repatriations whereby sick and injured  migrants are sent home, and ending discriminatory workers compensation practises that deny migrant workers equal access to benefits.

UPDATE and call-to-action with Kevon Smith:

SMITH-1

Thanks to the 45 people who donated in solidarity with injured migrant worker Kevon Smith over the past three days, the Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB) felt intense pressure to re-examine Kevon’s case. They have now allowed full compensation while he waits for his surgery. Kevon is grateful for everyone’s show of solidarity and generosity. The fundraiser is now closed.

But helping injured workers should never be a matter of charity.

Kevon should never have been obligated to make a desperate and public appeal for funds. The WSIB should have done the right thing before this public pressure. Beyond Kevon’s case, the WSIB continues to deny hundreds of injured workers the support they critically need and deserve.

Please email the office of the President of WSIB. Tell him:

  •  Workers are not disposable;
  • The WSIB should ensure they give injured migrant workers like Kevon the choice and the financial means to stay in Ontario for health care for their workplace injuries.

Please send emails to Tom Teahen, President and CEO, via Steve Jackson: Steve_jackson@wsib.on.ca. Please feel free to CC us: j4mw.on@gmail.com.

URGENT call for solidarity with injured apple worker Kevon Smith

SMITH-1

We are calling on supporters of Justice for Migrant Workers to please show solidarity through your material resources through the following Go Fund Me campaign: https://www.gofundme.com/helpforkevon

Kevon Smith, a migrant worker and father of five, suffered serious injuries while working on a apple farm near Simcoe, Ontario.

After his workplace injury, Kevon’s employer attempted to send him back to Trinidad and Tobago. Kevon knew this was not right, resisted and remained in Canada to access health care for his injuries and fight for  workers’ compensation from the WSIB.

Kevon’s doctors told him he will likely need surgery, but WSIB still refuses to provide him the financial support that would enable him to get it.

IAVGO Community Legal Clinic is helping Kevon challenge this unfair decision, but his status as a migrant worker excludes him from accessing other forms of income support programs. This means that at the moment he is far from home, severely injured and virtually penniless.

We are asking if you can provide some financial support as soon as possible to help Kevon with living costs through this crisis. He needs the funds now and will be able to access it within days of your donation.

Kevon is the sole breadwinner for himself and his young family.  This crisis has made them destitute. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Take Action in Solidarity with Migrant Farm Workers!

IMG_7690

The New York Times just published Foreign Farmworkers in Canada Fear Deportation if they Complain focusing international attention on Canada’s shameful exploitation of foreign workers. Participants in Canada’s migrant farm worker program courageously shared their stories with the NYT, which include medical repatriations, horrific housing and working conditions, and pressure from government officials not to complain.

The article implicates both the Canadian and foreign governments for failing to oversee working conditions and for denying migrant workers the same rights and protections as Canadians. Problems with Canada’s low-wage migrant worker program have been well documented by advocates, researchers, and media, but after the Trudeau government commissioned a review of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in 2016, it recommended  virtually no changes for the farm worker streams. Further, provincial governments often shirk responsibility by pointing out that the migrant worker program is federally administered. It’s time for all levels of  government to recognize the serious problems with the migrant farm worker program and commit to ensuring the same rights and protections for all workers in Canada.

Amidst the bald-faced white supremacy we’re seeing today, many people ask us how they can show solidarity with racialized low-wage migrant workers. Here are four easy things you can do:

  1. Share the article on social media, and tweet it to @AhmedDHussen and @PattyHajdu.

  2. Phone and/or email your Member of Parliament. Ask them to support:

    1. Landed status on arrival for all migrant workers;

    2. Equal access to all social programs (including Employment Insurance)

    3. Ending the unilateral repatriations of migrant workers, and implementing an appeals process so migrant workers aren’t simply deported because an employer says so.

    4. Migrant worker protections under the NAFTA renegotiation.

  3. Phone and or email your MLA/MPP. Ask them to ensure:

    1. Both occupational health and safety and employment standards are modernized to protect the rights of low-wage migrant workers.

    2. Random spot-checks at farm sites and employer-provided accommodations.

    3. Access to provincial health insurance on arrival, stop the practice of medical repatriations whereby sick and injured  migrants are sent home, and end discriminatory workers compensation practises that deny migrant workers equal access to benefits.

  4. Fill out A Food Policy for Canada survey by 31 Aug. Demand that migrant and workers’ rights be prioritized as part of Canada’s national food policy (mention the bullet points above).

In solidarity,

Radical Action with Migrants in Agriculture & Justice for Migrant Workers

NY Times slams Canada’s migrant farm worker scheme

Photo of Erika Zavala harvesting carrots on an organic farm in Cawston, British Columbia. Photo Credit Ruth Fremson of the NY Times.

Erika Zavala, 32, a seasonal worker from Mexico, weeding rows of plants in the organic carrot farm where she works near Cawston, British Columbia. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Migrant farm workers from BC and Ontario asserted their strength by sharing their struggles with an international audience. Today’s New York Times article by Dan Levin explains how Canada’s migrant farm worker scheme invites dangerous, unhealthy and exploitative conditions for migrant farm workers by its very design.

“This program is a form of apartheid,” said Chris Ramsaroop, an organizer with Justicia for Migrant Workers, a labor rights organization based in Ontario.

“Migrant workers are employed and live under a different set of legal rights than Canadians,” Mr. Ramsaroop added. “The very existence of temporary foreign worker programs enables the Canadian government to deny basic freedoms and protections as a result of their immigration status.”

 

Although they aren’t mentioned in the article, hats off to our friends at Radical Action with Migrants in Agriculture (especially Amy Cohen) for helping bring this piece to light.

This criticism by international media — which is underpinned by decades of research and advocacy — shows that justifications for Canada’s migrant farm worker program are wearing thin in the public eye.

What’s missing in media coverage of the new Auditor General report on the TFWP

Photo of Auditor General Michael Ferguson by Adrian Wyld, Canadian Press.

Michael Ferguson, Auditor General. Photo: Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press: http://bit.ly/2qgk5U1

On May 16th, Michael Ferguson, the Canadian Auditor General, released a new report on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). Much of the media coverage on the report has missed some key points. Some coverage has also risked pitting migrant workers against unemployed and marginalized residents of Canada, particularly Indigenous peoples.

To be clear, migrant workers do not lower wages or steal jobs. Inadequate wages, unemployment and a lack of employment equity occur because of specific state and capitalist policy choices. The absence of standards or enforcement is a policy choice, too. In the case of low-wage streams of the TFWP, governments create policies that allow capitalists (aka employers) to access racialized, unfree and deportable workers from the Majority World. Consequently, workers have weak workplace bargaining power and can’t easily demand better wages and working conditions.

In response to the report and mainstream media coverage, we suggest the following points and questions :

  • Growth of agricultural streams of the TFWP: While the number of migrant workers in other streams has decreased in recent years, agricultural migrant workers have skyrocketed
    • e.g. in 2014, there were 47,477 migrant worker positions approved in Primary Agriculture — this is a rough proxy for the number of migrant farm workers. In 2015, there were 53,303 positions approved.
  • Xenophobia: Media articles that frame migrant workers as stealing jobs from Canadians are dangerous, inaccurate and irresponsible. Worldwide, we have witnessed the alarming effects of fomenting xenophobic sentiment, and particularly in the wake of Brexit and the Trump election.
  • Decrease in # of ‘low-skilled’ migrant workers: The report cites a massive decrease in the number of ‘low-skilled’ workers following Conservative Party reforms to the TFWP.
    • What happened to these people? How many were deported, repatriated, are still here, transitioned to permanent residency, sought other forms of immigration status ie student, other occupation, refugee status, etc.?
  • The role of CIC and CBSA: The report only examines Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), but neglects to consider the role of Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Canada Border Services Agency, both of which play a key role in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
  • Agricultural exceptionalism: There is no discussion on why there has not been any greater scrutiny of the agriculture sector.
  • Workers are people: The report treats migrants as mere economic units, rather than human beings with individual and collective rights.
  • Recruiters: The report speaks to employment recruitment efforts without examining the role of third party recruitment agencies in bringing migrant workers.
  • Precaritization of jobs: The report provides commentary about the hiring of marginalized people without considering broader trends in the precaritization of employment (i.e. insecure, low-wage, unprotected and informal jobs with limited or no benefits)
  • Timing and industry: The report does not examine the time spent by migrant workers in Canada. Specifically, the report examines Labour Market Impact Assessment approval without examining the labour attachment of these TFW’s to the industries they worked in.
  • Four-and-Four: How did the Four-in-and-Four-Out Rule impact migrant workers in low-skill streams of the TFWP? How many were forced to return to their countries of origin, despite the eventual rescinding of this rule?
  • EI: For those workers who collected EI, how many were able to access special or regular benefits? How many claimed benefits as a result of termination, abuse or job conflict?
    • Members of the public and advocacy groups have requested EI data on the TFWP for years, only to be told that a breakdown does not exist. The report shows it does exist.
  • “Risk-based approach”: The report discusses the use of a “risk-based approach” to workplace inspections. What does this look like, how was it developed and how will it be implemented?
  • Fed-provincial: With respect to federal-provincial agreements on the TFWP, only one province has signed this with the federal government. Migrant workers must be actively included as part of deliberating on these agreements.
  • Inspections: the numbers of inspections are shocking — 4,900 paper inspections and 173 onsite inspections, only 13 of which have been completed.
  • Reprisals: What steps will the federal and provincial governments take to protect workers who are terminated or lose jobs because they assisted with investigations?
  • Exploitation by design: Extreme cases of abuse are of course a problem, but the Auditor General doesn’t comment on how the Temporary Foreign Worker Program invites exploitation by design because of the fundamental structure of the program — driven by employers, with workers tied to their employer.
  • Performance measurement strategy: The report states that ESDC has now developed a “performance measurement strategy” to assess the impact of the TFWP on the Canadian labour market.
    • What are the metrics used for this measurement? Will this strategy ensure the rights of all workers are upheld, especially those of migrant workers?