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A Victory and a Defeat for Farmworkers | Labor Notes




Jenny Brown


Labor Notes

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Labor Notes

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California’s United Farm Workers finally got a bill past the state legislature May 16 providing for majority sign-up union recognition.

The bill, a third effort, lets union representation decisions be made off the farm. UFW VP Armando Elenes says it will tamp down the intimidation and threats that have frustrated organizing efforts, like a failed 2005 vote among 3,000 grape pickers at Giumarra Vineyard.

In May Canada’s highest court rubberstamped the Ontario law denying collective bargaining to 80,000 farmworkers in the province. About 1 in 4 are guestworkers. The law violates basic labor standards, the United Nations said in November.

“Canada and Ontario have deservedly become international pariahs” because of the law, said Wayne Hanley, president of UFCW’s Canadian division.

The case started when 200 workers, many of them Sudanese and Cambodian immigrants, organized a union at an industrial mushroom farm in Leamington, Ontario. They worked in dangerous conditions, on slippery ladders on stacked mushroom beds in the dark.

Overseers called them by numbers instead of names and forbade them to speak any language but English. They voted in 2003 to join UFCW.

The workers took their case to the Supreme Court, but not before the employer fired four union activists and replaced them with guestworkers.

A version of this article appeared in Labor Notes #387, June 2011. Don't miss an issue, subscribe today.
- See more at: http://www.labornotes.org/2011/06/victory-and-defeat-farmworkers#sthash.mxdSmRAD.dpuf


Economic sectors

Agriculture and horticulture workers and General farm workers

Target groups

NGOs/community groups/solidarity networks

Geographical focuses

United States

Spheres of activity

Law and Political science