Mistreated, marginalized, migrant

Charting the wins and losses of migrant agricultural workers in Ontario during seven months of COVID-19.

“Any time a migrant worker says they’re sick, it’s like they’re not supposed to be sick.”

These are the words of Maria,* a migrant agricultural worker from the Caribbean who is currently working at a farm in Windsor-Essex County. Maria did not want to share her name, country of origin, or employer, out of fear of being punished. 

Maria is one of thousands of migrant farmworkers across Ontario. These workers come from the Caribbean, Latin America, and Asia, most via the federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). 

Read the full story in Briarpatch Magazine.

Invested in crisis

Mohamed Yusuf left his home in Ottawa’s Heron Gate community in October 2018, following about four months of organizing with the tenant coalition resisting an eviction order issued by their landlord, Timbercreek Asset Management Inc. 

In the end, Yusuf and his neighbours – largely racialized, immigrant, and low-income families – were forced to leave their homes, and the 150 low-rise townhouses in the city’s south end were demolished. Over 500 people were evicted. Timbercreek’s new plan for the area includes around 5,500 units with 20 per cent earmarked as affordable housing. Yusuf calls the Heron Gate evictions a step “to systematically remove those immigrants from the area and bring some middle-class families in there.”

Yusuf’s eviction wasn’t just an example of gentrification; it was part of a larger pattern of financializing housing. Timbercreek is one of many financial actors – including asset managers, private equity firms, and real estate investment trusts (or REITs) – that make up the global financialized housing system. 

Read the full story in Briarpatch Magazine.

Shared Risk? OMERS indexing dispute fits pattern of attacks

The Ontario Municipal Employee Retirement System (OMERS) Sponsors Corporation Board of Directors will be voting on whether or not to scrap guaranteed indexing for members in favour of a proposal they call “Shared Risk,” on June 24.

OMERS is a defined benefit plan for about half a million municipal workers in Ontario, including school board and Children’s Aid Society employees, library workers, police, firefighters and paramedics. This is not the first time the plan have tried to push this cut on Ontario workers. In 2018, Rankandfile.ca reported on a previous attempt by the pension fund to push for conditional indexing. The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) campaigned against this change then, and they are fighting again now.

CUPE members represent 45% of the OMERS pension plan membership. Rankandfile.ca spoke to the CUPE about their current campaign and what this change would mean for Ontario municipal workers.

Read the full story at rankandfile.ca.

Abandoned and Disposable: An Agricultural Worker Speaks Out

“We feel discriminated [against], abandoned and disposable. For the company, [it’s] very easy to get rid of us, but at the end we don’t get any information, nothing,” says Tony, whose name has been changed to protect his identity. Tony is a migrant agricultural worker at Highline Mushrooms, in Leamington, Ontario.

Like other workers across Canada and around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, Highline employees continue to go to work to provide an essential service while so many other people safely work from home. Highline has facilities in three locations across the province — Leamington, Kingsville and Wellington — and is the largest mushroom grower in Canada.

Tony sat down with Our Times to detail, through a translator, his experiences and those of his co-workers at Highline during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the full story in Our Times Magazine.

Union drive at WeedMD takes another twist

An effort to unionize workers at Ontario cannabis company WeedMD just got more complicated for the labour movement.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) has been trying to organize at the medpot company’s Strathroy and Aylmer facilities.

Kevin Shimmin, a national representative with UFCW, says workers contacted the union a few weeks ago over working conditions. He says allegations against the company include that it “terminated one or more employees for exercising their rights” to sign union cards.

Read the full story in NOW Magazine.

Essential but precarious: Toronto bike couriers fight for a union

Since Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced restaurants would stay open for takeout and delivery during the COVID19 pandemic, bicycle couriers have ben deemed “essential” workers.

Already a dangerous job, bicycle couriers working for food delivery apps like Foodora, Uber Eats, Doordash and Skip the Dishes have no sick leave, no health insurance. Now they’re part of a newly front line fleet of workers whose job helps people stay at home, and therefore contain the spread of the coronavirus. 

Rankandfile.ca spoke with two Toronto couriers about what it’s like to work at this time.

Read the full story at rankandfile.ca.

Breaking bread & movement building

“I want to help people who look like me, I always tell women, get involved in the labour movement. We’ll make space for you.” So says labour activist Gogi Bhandal who, on Sunday March 1, came together in sisterhood and solidarity with over 500 women in Brampton, Ontario’s Starlight Grand Convention Centre for an annual brunch celebrating International Women’s Day. Now in its eighth year, the brunch draws people from all over Peel region to honour the work of women, the advances they’ve made in the workplace and in society, and to discuss what still needs to be done.

“This event,” Bhandal explains, “is about building the women’s movement and building community, because women play a huge part in community building.”

Read the full story in Our Times Magazine.

The case for a human rights response to homeless encampments

Haseena Manek and Leilani Farha

A pattern is emerging. For two years running, the month of January has triggered the forced eviction of homeless people living in encampments in Toronto. 

This was the fate of those living in the Rosedale ravine a few weeks ago. They were evacuated ostensibly to preserve the ecology of the area, though it’s just as likely that their removal had to do with pressure from neighbours. 

Similarly, almost exactly a year ago, homeless folks living under the Gardiner Expressway had their encampment torn down for fire safety reasons. A few weeks later, a cluster of transparent domes – infrastructure for a luxury pop-up dining concept dubbed Dinner With A View – appeared nearby in a twisted metaphor for gentrification, with a heavy dose of irony.  

What’s happening in Toronto is mirrored across the country, with tent cities dotting the Canadian landscape in Edmonton, Winnipeg, London, Peterborough, North Bay and Fredericton. Regardless of where they spring up, the experience is disturbingly similar – deplorable conditions and, eventually, eviction.

Read the full story in NOW Magazine.