IWD 2021 and COVID-19

It’s March 8, 2021. We are mere days away from the dreaded one-year “pandemicversary” that has been looming from my calendar ever since the second wave of COVID-19 spread across Canada last fall. As I count down to March 11 — 365 days from when the WHO declared COVID a pandemic, and despite a simultaneously overtired and overwired brain, I can’t help reflecting on what a day like International Women’s Day means in the context of this pandemic.

So far, it looks like Zoom rallies, even more virtual panels and webinars, and various interpretations of this year’s theme, #ChooseToChallenge. In many ways, it feels like just another groggy Monday blurred into many other Mondays. But what does it mean?

Read the full commentary for Our Times‘ monthly newsletter here.

Here for All Seasons

On August 19, 2006, the Probo Koala, a ship registered in Panama and chartered by UK-based oil-trading company Trafigura, unloaded almost 140,000 gallons of toxic waste at the Port of Abidjan in Côte D’Ivoire. The waste was loaded onto trucks and illegally dumped in numerous city spots, some near the home of Naolo Charles’ parents. Within days, tens of thousands of people began reporting skin irritations, headaches and breathing problems.

It was this toxic-waste incident in Abidjan that triggered Charles’ interest in the environment and led him to pursue a graduate degree in the same topic, to better understand the issue.

“When that happened, I wasn’t actually aware of the fact that this was environmental racism,” Charles says via phone to Our Times.

Read the full story at ourtimes.ca.

This is What We Do

Union Solidarity with Migrant Farm Workers

On December 18, International Migrants Day, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW Canada) launched a petition calling for Canadian governments to protect the labour rights of migrant agricultural workers. “Without agricultural workers,” it reads, “much of Canada’s food supply would collapse.”

UFCW Canada is one among several unions and labour bodies taking action on behalf of migrant farm workers in Canada.

Read the full story at ourtimes.ca.

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.

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.

Ontario teachers begin one-day strike against Ford’s cuts

Today, members of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) walk off the job to protest ongoing attacks to the education system by Doug Ford’s government. Key issues for the teachers’ job action include preserving jobs, lowering class sizes and rejecting mandatory e-learning courses for students.

The one-day province-wide walk-out will close secondary schools across the province. Though this is only a one-day strike, further job action is still “on the table” if an agreement is not reached with the province.

According to the OSSTF, this strike has been a long time coming.

Read the full the story at rankandfile.ca.

Ontario’s education workers inch closer to strike position

Last week, negotiations between the Canadian Union of Public Employees’ (CUPE) bargaining agent the Ontario School Board Council of Union (OSBCU) and the province move to mediation as bargaining makes no progress for the 55,000 education workers CUPE represents across Ontario.

RankandFile.ca spoke with OSBCU President Laura Walton about the role of the government and Council of Trustees’ Associations (CTA) in the lack of progress in negotiations.

“We have done as much as we possibly can,” she says. “We have come up with solutions, we have heard concerns, we have offered alternatives. But we’re not willing to take less for our members who are already making less than they were making five years ago. We’re not willing to do that. And I don’t think the public undervalues us in the same way that we’re seeing from the government and or from the [CTA].”

Read the full story at rankandfile.ca.