Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) is a volunteer driven political non-profit collective comprised of committed activists from diverse walks of life (including labour activists, educators, researchers, students and youth of colour) based in Toronto, Ontario, and now in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. We are engaged in this work alongside our personal commitments and numerous social justice struggles.

J4MW strives to promote the rights of seasonal Caribbean and Mexican migrant workers that annually participate in the federal government's Caribbean & Mexican Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (known as SAWP). The J4MW collective is is motivated by experiences shared and lessons learned from migrant farm workers over the course of more than three years of community outreach in rural Ontario. As allies, activists and friends we believe migrant workers deserve work with dignity and respect!

Our History

In April 2001 a small group of us formerly associated with the labour movement traveled to Leamington, Ontario to investigate a serious labour dispute among Mexican migrant workers. The labour dispute had resulted in the early repatriation of over 20 workers. Identifying workers from the farm in question proved quite difficult due to fear and trust factors. However, workers from other farms eagerly voiced a plethora of problems and concerns. The workers' response to investigative mission was overwhelming and positive. Workers explained that they seldom had a chance to be heard and that their daily struggles were ignored. Throughout various investigative missions in Leamington and outreach to Caribbean migrant workers in other areas it became clear that migrant agricultural workers were acutely neglected in Canada.

Grass-roots organizing drew the attention of several government officials and documentation conducted by volunteers formed the basis of the Migrant Farm Workers in Canada 2001 Report that was presented to the Minister of Labour. Relationships of trust and contacts in various regions throughout rural Ontario convinced us of the necessity to continue community organizing in rural Ontario. In the summer of 2002 we formed Justicia for Migrant Workers, (J4MW). We hope broaden our work to contribute to a strong agriculture workers' movement through the unity of SAW and non-SAW program participants.

We are not the first group to attend to this cause. There has been numerous attempts to organize migrant farm workers throughout the decades in Canada. We are committed to sustain this work and engage the challenges of organizing with migrant farm workers.

Our Main Demands

Right to Employment Insurance: In 2001 it was estimated that migrant farm workers put into the EI fund over $11 million a year yet they are denied to apply for returns from this program. The federal government must create a regime whereby migrant farm workers can claim employment insurance.

Right to regularization: Workers must have the right to apply for citizenship in Canada. Since 1966 workers have been simply seen as a labour force that is brought and then returned after their contract is over. Many workers win the right to apply for Canadian citizenship. The government must listen to their needs and implement a process whereby workers can apply for status in Canada.

The Right to be treated with respect and dignity: Workers consider themselves to be an invisible workforce that have little clout when dealing with either employers or governmental officials. It is essential that migrant farm workers are covered by legislative protection that guarantees minimum labour standards. This must includes full coverage under Ontario's Employment Standards Act, Fair and decent housing, the right to form unions and the right to social and economic mobility in Canada.

Right to Appeal: Workers have complained that they work in virtual bondage. Several workers have documented cases where their colleagues have faced reprisal for standing up to demand better work and living conditions. Reprisals take the form of premature repatriations where workers are sent home usually at their own expense. An appeal process must be implemented to guarantee that migrant farm workers have the right to a fair and impartial process where they can tell their side of their story.

What We Do

- community outreach in migrant communities in rural Ontario and in sending communities in Mexico and the Caribbean
- raise awareness of the plight of migrant workers
- document workers' complaints, housing conditions and suggestions to improve the SAWP - research aspects of migrant agricultural labour in North America
- lobby government to change policies of SAWP
- build community coalitions with similar organizations across the Americas
- educate workers about their rights
- aid workers solve employment and housing problems
- empower workers to stand up for their rights
- engage in ongoing training of legal issues affecting migrant workers
- connect migrant workers with human rights organizations in their home countries
- stimulate action among migrant workers, host communities and the public at large
- respond to emergency immigration problems
- create spaces for both Caribbean and Mexican migrant workers to dialogue and strategize in their own terms
- send workers care/reading packages to their farms to ease isolation and depression

Principles and Goals

- build a movement/campaign that is based on workers experiences and involves workers,   ultimately is driven by workers themselves
- continually question our assumptions and our privileges
- link the struggles of migrant workers with processes of globalization, structural   adjustment and rural displacement
- have a long-term commitment to carry out this work
- be accountable to workers
- follow through on commitments we make
- create sustainability by building alliances with other groups and communities where   workers live
- carry out work in a way that builds and preserves relations of trust with workers
- build the capacity of and empower workers
- build our own capacity and knowledge as volunteer community organizers and advocates
- build our understanding of historical processes of migrant labour and workers in Canada
- include an analysis of gender, sexuality, class and race in our work

Community Partners

J4MW works closely with Consuelo Rubio from the Centre for Spanish Speaking Peoples. Consuelo has worked diligently on behalf of migrant workers on her own time. Consuelo uncovered that workers could apply to EI parental leave benefits.

We also collaborate with ENLACE (Community Link) Inc.

Our events and fundraisers in the past have received sponsorship from Alternative Grounds; The Toronto Women's Bookstore; Toronto Hispano; CKLN; CHRY; CERLAC; OPIRG York; OPIRG U of T; Black Youth United; The Centre for Anti-racism Studies (OISE-UT), Canadian Chiapanecan Women for Justice and more.

Our current community funders include: Canadian Labour Congress and CUPE 3903.