Tuesday, March 12, 2019

On the Move: Stories of Mobile Work

One of the long-term research projects I’ve been involved with is the On the Move partnership, which examines economic-related geographic mobility (ERGM). The project is wrapping up and two new knowledge translation activities have recently rolled out.

The first is another episode of Ideas on CBC radio. This episode reports some of the findings of the series and the link includes other episodes of Ideas that have covered the project. These include the experiences of young migrant workers in Banff and live-in caregivers in Fort McMurray and the impact of the wildfire.

The second is a set of stories produced by the Alberta team which captures the stories of migrant workers in Alberta. There are stories of Indigenous, interprovincial, and international migration. My own work has mostly been with international workers and the stories (which are composites) reflect that:
  • Carlos: A Gautemalan temporary foreign worker in the meatpacking industry who transitions to permanent residency.
  • Anong: A Thai worker comes to Canada and experiencing human trafficking.
  • Eugene: A Ukrainian migrant worker who stays on after his work permit expires and becomes undocumented.
  • Gabriela: A Mexican agricultural worker struggles to assert her reproductive rights on a mushroom farm.
  • Ashok: An Indian migrant worker struggles to work and live in rural Alberta.
  • Reyna: A Filipina caregiver flees the Fort McMurray wildfire and sees her dreams of family reunification put on hold. 
These stories highlight the exploitation and vulnerability of migrant workers. It is not that they lack agency or understanding, but they are trapped within profoundly exploitative immigration regimes. These stories will be included as learning elements in a new course I'm writing, LBST 325: Mobile work and migrant workers.

-- Bob Barnetson

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