Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Migrant farmworkers and modern slavery

I sometimes hear from workers seeking help. Over the Christmas break, I chatted with a temporary foreign worker employed on a mushroom farm in Alberta. 

The story he related was essentially one of modern slavery, including 16- to 18-hour days six days per week, endemic injury, wage theft, and insanely substandard housing. A quick bit of googling suggests this is not the first time this farm has been in the news around TFWs.

The worker’s solution was to leave the country (he was too injured to work anymore anyhow). All of the complaint processes available to him took too long and required too much English for him to successfully access them. I was thinking of him when I read this recent article entitled “Breaking the silence: The sexual harassment of Mexican women farmworkers.”

The gist of the article is that female migrant farm workers frequently experienced both quid pro quo and hostile work environment forms of sexual harassment and this harassment resulted in both employment and health consequences.

This research was done in Washington State. Canadians often feel superior to Americans around our treatment of farm workers, but (as my holiday chat with one of our TFWs suggests) we have little reason to feel this way.

-- Bob Barnetson

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