On Friday, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that an Ontario law, which excludes farm workers from unionizing, is constitutional. In contrast to the protections enjoyed by other workers in Ontario, under the current law, Ontario’s agricultural workers are able to join organizations, but employers are not obliged to bargain with them. Friday’s court ruling comes as a blow to Ontario farm workers, many of them temporary migrant workers, as well as to United Food and Commercial Workers Union of Canada (UFCW) which has been engaged in a decades-long battle to ensure the collective bargaining rights of agricultural workers. In a statement, Wayne Hanley, the national president of UFCW Canada said, “The Supreme Court of Canada has abandoned agriculture workers in Ontario in their fight for dignity and respect. Undoubtedly the industrial corporate farm lobby and the McGuinty Ontario government will be celebrating that the abuse of farm workers can continue for now.” The collective Justicia for Migrant Workers also responded to Friday’s announcement in a statement in which organizer Adrian Smith said, “Canada’s temporary foreign worker programs are based on our country’s ongoing legacy of slavery and indentureship…Workers will take action into their own hands irrespective of what the courts say. We do not need to the Supreme Court to tell us these schemes are racist. We have history on our side.” On today’s episode of the HJRC, we speak with Evelyn EnCalada Grez, an organizer with Justicia for Migrant Workers and a Doctoral Candidate at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, and the Department of Sociology and Equity Studies at the University of Toronto. Ms. EnCalada Grez is also the author of a recently published article entitled, “Vulnerabilities of female migrant farm workers from Latin America and the Caribbean in Canada.” We speak with her about Friday’s court decision and about the intersection of race and gender among Ontario agricultural workers.
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