Four ways you can take action in support of farm workers’ demands for dignity

Remember that video we shared of twelve workers crammed into a bunkhouse separated by flimsy cardboard? Here’s the backstory — and four ways you can take action in support of workers’ demands for dignity.

Aphria Inc., Canada’s cannabis powerhouse, recently claimed that they stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement:

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But this statement of solidarity appears to conflict with concerns raised by migrant agricultural workers employed at their facility, and through their choice of companies to partner with.

According to workers, most of those employed in Aphria’s greenhouse are migrants employed under Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which allows employers to hire predominantly Latinx and Black workers from the global south.

Greenhouse workers at Aphria have shared the following:

  • While non-greenhouse workers received an additional dollar of pay per hour during the pandemic, greenhouse workers are excluded from this premium.
  • Workers have complained about health & safety concerns in the workplace related to COVID-19, such as an inability to physically distance in communal spaces (i.e. the lunch room).

Furthermore, Aphria has a partnership with Double Diamond Produce. In 2013 Double Diamond was found to be in violation of Ontario’s Human Rights Code for racial discrimination against Adrian Monrose, a migrant farm worker from St. Lucia who identifies as Afro-Caribbean. The tribunal found that an owner and supervisor at Double Diamond subjected Monrose and his co-workers to racial slurs, and then fired him and repatriated him to St. Lucia when he complained about the treatment. In a landmark decision the Tribunal awarded order Double Diamond to pay him over $23,000 as human rights damages and lost wages. It also ordered the company to institute a human rights policy, and required all supervisors at Double Diamond to complete human rights training. The decision can be read here.

Recently another brave migrant farm worker exposed the housing conditions at Double Diamond, as seen in a widely-shared video. Workers are alleging that the company did not implement adequate measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.

These kinds of conditions, where workers have no reasonable opportunity to physically distance, are why hundreds of migrant workers on other farms have gotten sick with COVID-19. To date two migrant workers have tragically died.

The workers at Double Diamond and Aphria demand:

  • Access to Personal Protective Equipment upon request;
  • Sanitizing of the workplace and living quarters multiple times a day;
  • Dignified and safe living conditions, including ample space for physical distancing;
  • Collaboration with workers in developing a rigorous COVID-19 plan;
  • Immediate isolation of workers suspected of having COVID-19;
  • Hazard pay for all workers, retroactive to the start of the State of Emergency; and
  • Commitments by the employers to ensure that no reprisals are taken against workers who exercise their rights in speaking out for equitable and safe workplaces.

TAKE ACTION!

Justicia for Migrant Workers is asking you to show your support for workers through the following four actions:

ACTION 1

Phone 1-844-427-4742, email info@aphria.com and irwin.simon@aphria.com, and tweet Aphria (@aphriainc) to demand that Aphria:

  • Meet with workers and provide them with a safe route to voice their concerns (anonymously if necessary);
  • Give all workers employed during the pandemic a retroactive dollar increase as hazard pay;
  • End and prevent workplace practices that put workers’ health and safety at risk;
  • Explain: How does Aphria reconcile its purported commitment to Black Lives Matter with its business arrangement involving Double Diamond?
  • Provide safe and dignified accommodations for all migrant workers employed at Aphria, and require the same of your business partners.

Sample script:

It has come to our attention that your corporation recently declared your solidarity with the Black Lives Matters movement. We are concerned about your commitment to the fight against racial injustice while greenhouse workers at your workplace allege that they were recently denied a COVID-19 pay increase. Workers have also raised concerns regarding occupational health and safety issues both in the workplace and in their living conditions. 

We are showing solidarity today by demanding that all greenhouse workers retroactively receive the wage increase provided to other workers employed at Aphria. Furthermore it’s critical that you meet with the workers to address their concerns regarding working and living conditions, and describe what steps you will take to protect workers from COVID-19. 

Finally, it has also come to our attention that Aphria and Double Diamond have a relationship in the cannabis industry. As you may have seen in a recent video, farm workers are exposing deplorable housing conditions at Double Diamond. Furthermore, Double Diamond was found to have contravened the Ontario Human Rights Code when managers made racist slurs against Caribbean migrant farm workers. Migrant workers are demanding the following from Aphria:

  1. Meet with workers and provide them with a safe route to voice their concerns (anonymously if necessary);
  2. Give all workers employed during the pandemic a retroactive dollar increase as hazard pay;
  3. End and prevent workplace practices that put workers’ health and safety at risk;
  4. Explain: How does Aphria reconcile its purported commitment to Black Lives Matter with its business arrangement involving Double Diamond?
  5. Provide safe and dignified accommodations for all migrant workers employed at Aphria, and require the same of your business partners.

 

ACTION 2

Send a tweet to Ontario Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, demanding they make and enforce mandatory standards to protect migrant workers and undertake to carry out frequent, unannounced, and proactive inspections of bunkhouses.

[Sample tweet: Migrant farmworkers across Ontario are getting sick because they can’t physically distance at work or in their bunkhouse. @montemcnaughton, why isn’t @ONlabour doing frequent, proactive, unannounced bunkhouse inspections? Workers need protections now!]

ACTION 3

Send a tweet to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and federal ministers demanding a wage boost and full permanent resident status now for migrant workers,

[Sample tweet: @justintrudeau @cquatro @marcomendicino @Mclaudebibeau Stop discriminating against #migrant workers! Why no essential pay or wage boost for #migrants? #statusnow for #migrantworkers ]

ACTION 4

Sign the petition at: https://harvestingfreedom.org/2020/05/07/petition-tell-the-ontario-government-farmworkers-need-urgent-protections/  

 

Take action for the international broadcast of Migrant Dreams!

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The reality of Canada’s labour apartheid enters the world stage with the international broadcast of Migrant Dreams on Al Jazeera for May 2nd.  Throughout the month of May, Al Jazeera will stream the documentary for free worldwide.

 

The documentary Migrant Dreams tears a rupture in the myth of ‘Canada the Good’.

Migrant Dreams foregrounds the voices of migrant workers who work in farms in Canada through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. The film opens a conversation about the relationship between labour, race, class, gender and settlement — otherwise known as immigration — to Canada viewed through the prism of the Canada’s migrant worker programs.

In the film, workers from Indonesia battle an exploitative recruiter who extorts them for money under the threat of deportation if they don’t pay up.  Other workers struggle with crowded substandard housing, unsafe exposures to pesticides and unsafe conditions.  Workers in Canada’s migrant program are told to pay up, shut up or get out.

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.

Let’s use this international spotlight to pressure the Canadian government to take action on migrant worker justice. Workers in Canada are standing up, fighting back and resisting systemic oppression. Speaking out in the documentary is an act of courage.  We ask you to support these workers – stand in solidarity with their 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. And it’s time the Canadian government addressed the rights of low wage, racialized workers who are treated like disposable commodities.

Phone and/or email your Member of Parliament (find them by postal code), and CC j4mw.on@gmail.com. You can also tweet @JustinTrudeau, @AhmedDHussen and @PattyHajdu.

Ask them to support:

  • 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 says so.
  • Taking steps to end recruitment fees

Here’s a sample letter you can copy & paste into an email:

Dear [MP/Minister/Prime Minister],

Migrant Dreams, a documentary about Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program, just launched its international premiere. I am shocked and angered by the systemic injustice depicted in this crucial documentary. Canada claims to be a global leader on human rights, but Migrant Dreams tells a very different story of what is occurring in Canadian fields, greenhouses and packing plants.

This isn’t a story about a few bad apples: the entire Temporary Foreign Worker Program is rotten to the core. To end these injustices, I urge you and your government to take steps immediately to support the following:

  • 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 says so.
  • Taking steps to end recruitment fees

Sincerely,

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

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]

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