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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
- 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
- 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
- stimulate action among migrant workers, host communities and the public
- 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
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
- build the capacity of and empower workers
- build our own capacity and knowledge as volunteer community organizers
- 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
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.
also collaborate with ENLACE
(Community Link) Inc.
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
current community funders include: Canadian Labour Congress and CUPE