Largest group of farmworkers in Canadian history join union UFCW 1518

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LANGLEY, British Columbia, July 09, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Nearly 400 workers at five Highline Mushrooms farms in British Columbia have joined United Food and Commercial Workers 1518. On July 8, the B.C. labour board certified the latest group of workers to join the union: 210 workers at the Langley mushroom farm are joining the recently-unionized members at the Abbotsford locations, bringing the total number of new union members to 390 agricultural workers. This will be the largest group of farmworkers in Canadian history to join a union.

The newest union members in Langley are migrant agricultural workers here on temporary work permits from countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, India and Vietnam; the unit also includes local workers who work in packaging or as drivers. The workers united to join the union to advocate with one voice for better working conditions.

The key concerns for the workers at Highline Mushrooms are improving health and safety, ensuring a safe and fair work environment, being treated with dignity and respect, and the ability to bargain collectively.

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“The biggest motivation to join UFCW is job security to have a personal peace of mind. If anything goes wrong, or if the employer treats you unfairly, the union has your back,” says Kulwinder Kaur, Highline Mushrooms worker in Langley. “I expect all workers at work to be treated respectfully and fairly, and as union members, we should all be treated equally.”

Migrant agricultural workers are some of the most vulnerable workers in Canada, despite working for transnational agri-food conglomerates who own large scale operations worth billions. Agriculture is still labour intensive, and is largely staffed by migrant workers, working long, grueling hours. Workers can be fired and deported back to their home countries for minor reasons, with little to no protection or recourse.

“Joining a union allows migrant agricultural workers to have a voice at the table,” says Patrick Johnson, President of UFCW 1518. “We welcome our newest members to the UFCW 1518 union family and hope that they serve as inspiration for other workers in Canada’s agri-food industry.”

As the food workers’ union, UFCW Canada represents thousands of migrant workers in unionized workplaces across the country, such as greenhouses, mushroom factories, and meatpacking plants. The union fiercely advocates for its migrant members, including working with them to navigate the immigration pathways and become permanent residents if desired. UFCW’s Migrant Members Support Program provides support to members who are here in Canada on temporary work permits toward realizing their dream of becoming Canadian.

“This is more evidence that there is a strong desire for migrant food workers to engage their fundamental labour rights and unionize,” says Shawn Haggerty, UFCW Canada National President. “UFCW Canada is the union for agricultural workers in Canada, and we look forward to working with Highline Mushrooms and other social partners in the sector to advance decent work in the agri-food sector. This also strengthens the Canadian food sector by contributing to a more stable and secure labour market.”

Highline Mushrooms is a subsidiary of the Japanese-owned Sumitomo conglomerate; Sumitomo and many of its subsidiaries, including agri-food giant Fyffes, have pledged to defend human and labour rights in their business practices.

Strong social partnerships based on the recently-released International Labour Organization’s guidelines for the advancement of decent work in the agri-food sector are crucial for building a strong agri-food sector and truly positioning Canada as global food production leader.

UFCW Canada looks forward to working with Highline Mushrooms and Sumitomo as a social partner, committed to advancing decent work and to continue building socially sustainable supply chains for the agri-food sector.

About

UFCW Canada (the United Food and Commercial Workers Union) represents more than 255,000 members across Canada working in every sector of the food industry from field to table. For 30 years, UFCW Canada has been the leading voice of, and advocate for, domestic and migrant agricultural workers.

UFCW Canada is part of the larger UFCW International – one of North America’s largest private- sector unions with more than 1.3 million members – and is a leading affiliate of the global union federation, the European-based International Union of Food International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF).

Contact

Derek Johnstone, UFCW Canada
Phone: 416-679-3417
Email: [email protected]

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