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The Exploitation Of Migrant Workers In Canada

By Drog in Culture
Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 06:30:34 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)

Anyone living in Canada who tuned into TVO last night saw an eye-opening documentary called El Contrato. The film, directed by Min Sook Lee, follows Teodoro Bello Martinez, a poverty-stricken father of four from Central Mexico, and several of his countrymen as they make their annual migration to southern Ontario to work for eight months of the year as migrant labourers picking tomatoes -- in return for wages and working conditions that no locals will accept. Despite their fear of almost certain repercussions, the workers voice their desire not just for better working conditions, but for the simple dignity and respect that all human beings deserve.

Growers hire foreign workers under the government's Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP), which is administered by the Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (F.A.R.M.S) in Ontario (and by F.E.R.M.E. in Quebec, New Brunswick and P.E.I.). Because the growers monitor themselves, and because there is a long line of jobless men "back home" willing and eager to take the place of those in the program, the workers are as ripe for exploitation as the fruit they pick.

As the website Justicia for Migrant Workers details, there were almost 11,000 migrant workers from Mexico and almost 8,000 from the Carribean working in Canada in 2002. Nobody wants the migrant workers to stay in Canada, so only married men (and some single mothers) are allowed into the program. These people generally come from places where unemployment runs high, making the workers desperate to be accepted into the program even though it means spending eight months a year away from their families. More importantly, they are desperate to stay in it.

They are packed into substandard houses like sardines, forced to work gruelling 12-15 hour days, 7 days a week without overtime or holiday pay, and denied necessary breaks. They are exposed to dangerous chemicals/pesticides with no safety equipment/protection or training. They are provided with inadequate health attention and services. They are excluded from basic human rights legislation such as Health and Safety Legislation and most aspects of the Employment Standards Act. They are prohibited from collective bargaining and joining unions, and forming their own union is not a realistic option since they could easily be fired and replaced en masse. They are not allowed to claim residency or obtain educational opportunities for their children despite extensive years of work in Canada. They are not given access to basic ESL (English as a Second Language) training because they must work late into the evening and because they are first required to pass a tuberculosis test, which their employers will not help them with since they are only required to take them to a doctor is they are ill. They are also subjected to overt racism from townspeople in towns such as Leamington, sometimes resulting in physical altercations.

For all of this, they are paid $7.70 an hour minus Employment Insurance (EI) and Canada Pension Plan (CPP) deductions, which are taken from their paycheques despite the fact that they are not entitled to either of these government services themselves.

As the documentary revealed, they are often subjected to outright abuse in the workplace. One supervisor would constantly scream at them and even grabbed one worker by the throat. Phrases such as "they treat us worse than animals!" and references to slavery are commonly heard among the workers. If they complain to their employers, they run the risk of simply being expelled from the program. The Mexican Ministry of Labour and Social Planning seems to care more about the program than the workers, telling that workers who complain that this is how the system works and if they don't like it, they can choose to stay home.

As a paper (pdf document) by Tonya Basok of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies reveals, the migrant workers actually are entitled by law to many rights such as vacation pay, holiday pay, EI, CPP at age 65, but they to not exercise those rights because they are often unaware of their entitlements, they are fearful of being expelled from the program, and they do not speak English and so cannot follow the procedures required to receive their benefits even if they know what they are.

Canada has relied on migrant labour to literally build the nation. Chinese migrant workers built the national railroad. South Asian migrant workers tamed the fields of Western Canada. Today, migrant workers are indispensable in domestic work, construction and agriculture. But despite their importance, they have always been denied basic human rights and citizenship and remain the most marginalized labour force in Canada.

For shame.


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Related Links
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The Exploitation Of Migrant Workers In Canada | 117 comments (101 topical, 16 editorial, 0 hidden)
It would be nice... (2.75 / 4) (#2)
by Uber Banker 2 on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 12:00:07 PM EST

...to have a clear seperation of government restrictions, exploitation under the law, and unlawful exploitation. Instead these topics are lumped into the same paragraph. This makes the whole story unclear, from an analytical stand point, so I can't really understand the point of it - sure migrant workers are exxploited - what does this add?

Well... (none / 0) (#8)
by Drog on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 12:40:04 PM EST

I think it's very safe to say that most people have been unaware that migrant workers in Canada are exploited other than getting minimum wage for hard work. Maybe you were already aware of all this. I certainly wasn't.

Looking for political forums? Check out "The World Forum". News feed available here on K5.
[ Parent ]
Wise Up Guy! (none / 0) (#27)
by Uber Banker 2 on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 03:15:26 PM EST

[ Parent ]
You failed... (1.50 / 2) (#29)
by Uber Banker 2 on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 03:17:24 PM EST

...to use the edit queue, which if this were an awesome piece of journalism would be OK, but it is poorly written, poorly thought out with mediocre analysis; an interesting subject nonetheless.

[ Parent ]
Edit Queue and Standards (2.66 / 3) (#34)
by Drog on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 04:08:34 PM EST

I have to say, I don't like the edit queue very much. If I had trouble with spelling or grammar, I'd use it. But using the edit queue to ensure my story is well thought out and contains a comprehensive analysis? Forget it. If someone thinks I didn't make a point that I should have, that person should make the point himself in the discussion. That's what the discussion is for.

I have a full-time job and a family. Three hours is about the maximum time I'm willing to spend writing stories up for K5, SciScoop or The World Forum. I do it to inform people about news and issues and to promote a good discussion about it, which I will most likely learn from too.

For me, the story is just the beginning -- the discussion is why I come to K5. I realize many people feel differently, and they'll vote to dump my stories, and that's fine. No hard feelings here. I just personally think that while story submissions must be held to a high standard, there's a real danger of holding those standards so high that it discourages submissions, thus leading to a reduction in readership and, of course, participation (fewer stories = fewer discussions).

Looking for political forums? Check out "The World Forum". News feed available here on K5.
[ Parent ]

If they work in Canada.. (2.33 / 6) (#4)
by sudog on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 12:15:49 PM EST

..they should be expected to pay Canadian taxes and similar forms of deductions--including CPP and EI.

While they're working in abhorrent conditions and that needs to be addressed, it would be stupid to exempt them from CPP and EI. After all, by your logic, they shouldn't have to pay taxes either, since they're obviously not benefitting from our government either!

That's not the point (3.00 / 3) (#7)
by Drog on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 12:31:01 PM EST

The point is they should only pay into those services if they are eligible for them too. They can never collect EI since they are only allowed into Canada to work for their employer. The minute that work is no longer available, they are shipped back home. And although they are technically eligible for CPP when they turn 65, they are not generally made aware of this and have no idea how to go about collecting it from their homeland.

Looking for political forums? Check out "The World Forum". News feed available here on K5.
[ Parent ]
Hey, that's a great idea. (2.16 / 6) (#39)
by gr3y on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 06:02:55 PM EST

By the time I reach retirement age, there will be no such thing as Social Security. Since I'll never be eligible for social security, I should stop paying, and get an immediate $300 pay raise.

Man. There's a lot of government handouts I'm not eligible for that will immediately boost my income. For example, I'm white and employed. I'm not eligible for "unemployment insurance", so I can stop paying for it! I'm white, so I'm not eligible for minority scholarships, and affirmative action does nothing for me, so I can stop paying for those programs!

I am a disruptive technology.
[ Parent ]

Umm. (2.50 / 2) (#83)
by mindstrm on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 02:41:06 PM EST

In Canada, everyone who has a job working for someone else is eligible for, and must pay into,  EI (with a valid claim of course).  Wether you will use it or not isn't relevant, it is mandatory insurance.

The issue is that if the rules are such that these migrant workers can NOT legally ever collect EI, even with an otherwise valid claim, then making them pay into it is wrong.

[ Parent ]

Mmm. I understand "the issue". (none / 0) (#87)
by gr3y on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 08:51:34 PM EST

What you [apparently] don't understand is that every American (with very few exceptions) is eligible for, and must pay into, Social Security. I am paying into Social Security, with no reasonable expectation of ever receiving a dime of Social Security after I retire.

Therefore, I am in exactly the same position as the migrant workers of which you speak. I do not expect to be able to "legally collect" Social Security, even with an obvious and valid claim (I'm a citizen, and I've been paying into it all my life). Therefore, making me pay the tax is wrong. The situation is analagous. You do see that, don't you?

I am a disruptive technology.
[ Parent ]

Social Security (2.33 / 3) (#94)
by Hatamoto on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 01:46:42 AM EST

Assuming the bush junta doesn't fuck social security irreparably by privatizing it, it'll last well into your retirement. Don't get suckered in by these 'ownership society' idiots who want to syphon off insane amounts of money in the form of fees to administer people's brand-new national 401(k)s.

It's a Fake Crisis.

"Innocence is no defense." - Federal District Judge William H. Yohn (People v. Mumia Abu-Jamal)
[ Parent ]

That was an excellent article. [N/T] (none / 0) (#98)
by gr3y on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 10:38:43 AM EST

I am a disruptive technology.
[ Parent ]
Social Security is different. (none / 0) (#100)
by mindstrm on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 03:38:56 PM EST

The difference is that what you described is how the  SS system in the US works. All those working now pay into it, and out of that those who are claiming it are paid.  IT's designed this way from the beginning.

Our EI system is not the same thing, everyone who pays into it, with the exception of these migrant workers, apparently, is eligible to claim EI.  
EI is employment insurance. If you are laid off, it pays you. If you are injured on the job, it pays you while you can't work.  It even pays for reeducation sometimes if you need retraining.

If you are a contractor, you don't pay EI.  If you are an owner, you don't pay EI.  Only employees pay EI.  If you don't pay, you aren't eligible for any benefits.  

These migrant workers are the first situation I've ever heard of in my country where someone has to pay into EI, yet are not eligible for any of it's benefits.

[ Parent ]

Social Security was most definitely NOT... (none / 1) (#101)
by gr3y on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 04:12:33 PM EST

designed that way from the beginning, but it has become that. In the beginning, people were not paying into the fund at a rate which adequately compensated for inflation or cost-of-living increases, and life expectancy has increased, which has increased the time over which payouts are made.

We have something similar to your EI: unemployment insurance. In Virginia, employers pay unemployment insurance for their employees. If you lose your job, you are eligible to receive benefits at a rate (supposedly) commensurate with your salary. I do not know if you are eligible if you quit or are fired. Other programs exist to compensate the disabled (disability), or chronically unemployed (welfare).

I like the concept you describe better. One fund every worker pays into, and from which all benefits are paid, and if you don't pay, you aren't eligible for benefits.

I am a disruptive technology.
[ Parent ]

EI is not one-for-one. It's country-wide. (none / 1) (#72)
by sudog on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 03:35:47 PM EST

Besides, if at some point in the future they do migrate to Canada, what are they supposed to do? Pay back all their EI and CPP premiums they were exempt from previously?

By the same token, EI and CPP are not something that I benefit from *today*: they are a benefit I *might* see sometime far off in the *future*.

Unless these migrants sign something saying they give up the possibility of immigrating to Canada for all time and agree that we'll never let them into Canada in the future, then I say keep on collecting CPP and EI while they work here in Canada.

Seems simple enough to me.

[ Parent ]

Err (none / 0) (#82)
by mindstrm on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 02:37:23 PM EST

EI is not one for one? What do you mean?

If you run your own business, you don't pay EI, and are not eligible for it if your business goes south.

If they are not eligible to collect EI if they lose their job in certain ways,  like anyone else, then they should not have to pay into EI.

Whether they emigrate later is irrelevant.

As for CPP, they are eligible for CPP when they retire, regardless, so this is more fair (though it should also be able to be waived, as they are foreigners)

[ Parent ]

Wrong. Also, wrong analogies. (none / 0) (#109)
by sudog on Thu Jan 20, 2005 at 04:20:20 PM EST

But I can see arguing with you will get me nowhere, so I guess this is the end of the thread.

[ Parent ]
Can't immigrate to Canada... (none / 0) (#111)
by aylwin on Sat Jan 22, 2005 at 12:34:24 AM EST

Migrant workers can't actually accrue time towards immigration during their years living and working here. That's why you get guys coming for 15, 20, or more years and still going back home every year.

[ Parent ]
hmm (2.13 / 15) (#5)
by jann on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 12:22:10 PM EST

forced to work gruelling 12-15 hour days, 7 days a week without overtime or holiday pay,

they must work in the IT sector

-1:not funny / this ain't slashdot[no tea, please] (none / 1) (#19)
by alge on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 02:21:01 PM EST


vi er ikke lenger elsket her

[ Parent ]
-1, What does this have to do with the Brothas? (1.16 / 6) (#9)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 12:58:56 PM EST

I will vote up your "The Blaxploitation of Migrant Workers in Canada", should you decide to write it.

Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
Dumb question. (2.75 / 4) (#10)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 01:03:30 PM EST

Surely, all the relevant law, including the procedures to recieve benefits they are entitled to, is freely available over the net.

Assuming that these workers are not illiterate (or that if they are, that they can't find another worker willing to read it for them), why not translate these documents into spanish? A project like this could be almost trivial, if you had several hundred people translating a paragraph or two. Hell, I'd chip in $10 to have a crate of such brochures airmailed to Mexico City, to be distributed for free. What would it really take to accomplish something like that?

Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.

It should be in more languages (none / 0) (#51)
by sunder on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 10:06:35 PM EST

I know the berry & fruit farmers here in BC rely heavily upon south asian workers.

[ Parent ]
Why bother? (none / 1) (#65)
by Dr Caleb on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 12:39:00 PM EST

They should just learn to speak American. ;)

Vive Le Canada - For Canadians who give a shit about their country.

There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

Some of the realities (none / 0) (#114)
by aylwin on Sat Jan 22, 2005 at 01:12:56 AM EST

Not to shoot you out of the sky, but a few reasons why simply making lit available are only a partial solution - an indicator that the problem lies deeper:

  • Even with information, workers lack language skills, or failing that, appropriate representation to assert their rights;
  • When one works 12-15 hours a day, 6-7 days a week, one generally doesn't have the time or energy to pore over "relevant law" for oneself and one's coworkers;
  • Enforcement mechanisms are generally weak, slow-moving and hindered by workers' movement between Mexico and Canada; and
  • Workers generally avoid launching complaints or "rocking the boat," for fear of repatriation - which usually leads to being blacklisted from the SAWP.

Granted, the availability of such lit would be a step in the right direction, but it's hard to capture the whole of how messed-up this picture is.

[ Parent ]

You have to start somewhere. (none / 0) (#115)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Sat Jan 22, 2005 at 12:11:30 PM EST

This is low-cost to the participants, they don't have to become ful-time activists for complete strangers who may not even appreciate the effort. Spend an hour translating something to spanish, over the internet? Besides, it's a catalyzing event. Most wouldn't read it, but some would. Those that do would tell others, even as they worked.

Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]
Wow (1.00 / 17) (#13)
by Big Sexxy Joe on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 01:31:38 PM EST

The heartlessness of the ice niggers knows no bounds.

I'm like Jesus, only better.
Democracy Now! - your daily, uncensored, corporate-free grassroots news hour
Oh how these poor people need our protection! (2.08 / 12) (#16)
by MotorMachineMercenary on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 01:42:39 PM EST

How exactly are they "forced" to work in these conditions? Are we talking about shackles, chains and singing the blues? Or is it just that they choose to work in these conditions because they get better paid wherever and whatever else they would be doing back home? The author himself concedes that these workers are "desperate" to stay in the program. Are us westerners so high on our superiority complex that we are entitled to make the decisions for these people since they are obviously poor, uneducated simpletons who can't make a rational decision?

Furthermore, depending on the work they do is it even likely that the work would be there if these workers were given the same rights as locals and the employers adhered to all regulations? There's a reason these workers get the job and that is because they work for less than locals. If the cost of hiring them goes up enough the work will be done by locals or, more likely, migrate to outside of Canada. Fine, you say, at least they won't have to work in these dire conditions. Well, how do you think the conditions are in developing countries? Do you think they have better rights and regulations there than the few truncated ones they are entitled to in this program? But at least they're not working on my backyard. Out of sight, out of mind.

"What's next, sigging a k5er quote about sigging someone on k5?"

Freedom of Choice (2.66 / 3) (#25)
by Polyester Jones on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 03:03:26 PM EST

If a person holds a gun to your head and says 'Your money or your life', it can be said that you are being given a choice, but only a lawyer would try and make this kind of argument. Any reasonable person would say you are being forced to hand over your money. These people are desperate for these jobs only because the alternative is unacceptable, so it is not unreasonable to say they are being forced.

When ideas fail, words come in very handy.
[ Parent ]
Why do people insist on making (1.80 / 5) (#31)
by MotorMachineMercenary on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 03:46:58 PM EST

metaphors to "simplify" things so we can discuss them on terms everyone understands. Are people so stupid these days they can't understand anything unless you come up with a witty metaphor? What usually happens (here is a good example) is the underlying issue becomes even more muddled than it already is and/or people end up arguing about the metaphor.

So unless you have something to say about my comment, fuck off.

"What's next, sigging a k5er quote about sigging someone on k5?"

[ Parent ]
Was he employing a metaphor, witty or otherwise? (2.50 / 2) (#70)
by londonalan on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 03:18:02 PM EST

Surely he was merely pointing out that when you look at these situations from a particular perspective, the capitalist viewpoint isn't as in tune with common-sense as neoliberals like to pretend.

[ Parent ]
Yes, they do, actually. (2.25 / 4) (#26)
by Drog on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 03:08:00 PM EST

You seem to be saying that employers should be allowed to treat workers as crappy as they want, free of any regulations, because the workers are always free to leave if they don't like it. Nobody is putting a gun to their head, right? They're free to leave whenever they want, right? Therefore they're not being "forced", right? Do you know what exploitation means?

Exploiting workers means treating them unfairly, using them for the employer's own selfish purposes, taking advantage of their power over them, taking advantage of their dire situation by making them work under conditions nobody would otherwise put up with.

The migrant workers are ALL married men with families. There is no work for them back home. The only way for them to feed their children is to accept the work in Canada no matter how bad it is. So the employers make it as bad as they can possibly get away with by law, so that they can maximize their profits. And you think that's okay because the workers aren't actually being "physically" forced?

What the growers decide to pay their workers is their business. But they should not be allowed to make their employees work under conditions that are any worse than any other job in Canada. Migrant workers should be treated every bit as well as Canadian citizens. The government should be protecting them from being exploited in the workplace, just as they protect their own citizens from it. Instead, the government sets them up to be exploited from day one.

I don't care how bad the working conditions might be for them in their own country, where we can't do much about it. This is Canada, and we can do something about it here in our own backyard.

This issue has nothing to do with us feeling superior to migrant workers and making decisions for them. It has to do with our treating all workers in Canada with respect and dignity no matter where they're from.

Looking for political forums? Check out "The World Forum". News feed available here on K5.
[ Parent ]

Oh noes! The eeevil corporate moguls! (2.00 / 5) (#30)
by MotorMachineMercenary on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 03:44:01 PM EST

"You seem to be saying that employers should be allowed to treat workers as crappy as they want, free of any regulations, because the workers are always free to leave if they don't like it. Nobody is putting a gun to their head, right?" [snip more of the same ideological feel-good tripe]

No. I'm saying that if the Canadian employers are forced to adhere to the same rules and regulations as locals, the price of hiring a foreign worker goes up, taking away their jobs. You wrote:

"There is no work for them back home. The only way for them to feed their children is to accept the work in Canada no matter how bad it is." [snip]

So if what you are saying is true their children and wives would starve to death. So, should we exploit the workers or starve their children to death? Which is better, one bruised and exhausted worker or seven malnourished pot-bellied brain-damaged children with emaciated parents?

Ok, even if they don't literally starve to death, my original point remains: if the migrant workers are driven back home due to rising hiring costs they will end up doing same shitty or shittier jobs back home which are highly likely even more hazardous and don't pay nearly as much.

So which do you prefer? Exploit the migrant workers or drive them away making the poor into destitute?

Look, I know this is a very ambiguous and painful issue. But you have to realize that with all the good you think you are doing you might be actually hurting the very people you thought you are helping. I, as much as you, would like to see all the people in the world work in citrus-scented factories sitting on comfy chairs and working in ergonomic environments with gentle Beethoven in the loudspeakers.

But we live in the real world and that's just not possible. Just because the migrant workers are not working in dire conditions on your backyard doesn't mean that it doesn't happen elsewhere. And your actions just displace those conditions elsewhere. What you are suggesting is the typical "out of sight, out of mind" mentality which permeates the "we'll save these people even if it kills them"-mentality your kind spew on indymedia and street demonstrations.

It is easy to say "people shouldn't be exploited for the almighty dollar," but making it so it doesn't happen takes more than displacing such exploitation to faraway lands.

"What's next, sigging a k5er quote about sigging someone on k5?"

[ Parent ]
Sorry, I don't buy into your argument (2.50 / 2) (#35)
by Drog on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 04:25:52 PM EST

If the Canadian employers are forced to adhere to the same rules and regulations as locals, the price of using migrant workers will go up, no doubt. That means the growers will either make less profit or they'll pass on the cost to the distributors who will pass it on the consumers. It does not automatically mean it would take away their jobs -- it's still hard, backbreaking work and it still pays minimum wage. There would probably be some Canadians willing to do the work, as opposed to none right now, but I highly doubt there would be enough to replace all the migrant workers.

You make it sound like we're doing them a favour. We're not -- they earn their money. Treating migrant workers worse than our own is plain wrong. Sweatshops are wrong. Child labour is wrong. Allowing people to be exploited here, rationalizing it away by saying that it's just going to happen somewhere else otherwise, is wrong.

Looking for political forums? Check out "The World Forum". News feed available here on K5.
[ Parent ]

No need to be sorry, just ashamed (2.33 / 3) (#36)
by MotorMachineMercenary on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 04:49:26 PM EST

"That means the growers will either make less profit or they'll pass on the cost to the distributors who will pass it on the consumers."

Guess which one will it be? Passing it onto the customers. Guess how willing the customers are to pay higher prices? They aren't. Even if you claim the price hike is to make the workers' lives easier, people don't care. Just look at how well Nike sells. So they will turn to products made for cheaper. Guess where they are made cheaper? In developing countries with weaker worker rights.

Of course we aren't doing them a favor. Companies are not in business to do "favors," they are to maximize stakeholder (nowadays shareholder) returns. We (well, you) are providing them paying jobs, that's it.

So you go ahead telling yourself you are making the world a better place by driving these poor people away. You are not. And just like your ilk, those very people you are trying to help will curse you, and for a good reason. Your idealism is just as blind and naïve as that of the crusaders' or suicide bombers. But as many have said before me, ignorance is a bliss, and it's great to be ignorant when you surround yourself with people who are touchingly ignorant with you.

And on your tangent: "sweatshops" are not wrong. Child labor is not wrong per se. But that's another debate.

"What's next, sigging a k5er quote about sigging someone on k5?"

[ Parent ]
What is being left out of this discussion. (2.00 / 2) (#44)
by waxmop on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 08:12:03 PM EST

I've never liked it when people argue that when a wage gets low enough, anyone agreeing to take that wage is somehow being exploited. The important thing is that both sides have all the same information.

However, what is really wrong is when a worker is misled about any health risks associated with the job, legal rights to organize, or government entitlements. And it's not just wrong from an ethical human standpoint. Even the most callous black-hearted Chicago School vampire (I'm looking at you, MMM) has to acknowledge that labor markets no longer operate efficiently when big information asymmetry exists.

Smart progressives don't waste time arguing for a living wage. Instead, they're meeting with these workers, making sure they understand their rights, and explaining how education and savings is their only chance at saving their kids from their own fate.
fuck meatspace man I gotta level my dwarf cleric lonelyhobo
[ Parent ]

Well (none / 1) (#45)
by MotorMachineMercenary on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 08:31:58 PM EST

do you think telling these people about the health risks or their rights would turn them away from the work? Maybe a few, but there'd be hundreds to fill their places, given the same information. If I had to choose between working in a highly dangerous environment and my kids starving to death, it'd be a no-brainer. So in this case, although information asymmetry does exist, it doesn't affect the efficiency of labor markets since the result would be the same. Besides, labor markets function more efficiently because these people are working in Canada.

I wish there were more of the type of people you describe in your last paragraph. They have obviously realized what I have, and are doing something to fix the problem instead of bitchbitchbitching about it on the internet spewing their idealistic BS to the masses.

BTW, I resent being called "callous black-hearted Chicago School vampire." I prefer "soulless fuck."

"What's next, sigging a k5er quote about sigging someone on k5?"

[ Parent ]
Ok. (none / 0) (#48)
by waxmop on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 08:54:41 PM EST

Yeah, these guys would take a job gargling DDT if they have to. But I'd like to think that just maybe if Mexico keeps on a trend toward representative democracy, then at some point maybe these guys could have somebody in their government stand up for them.
fuck meatspace man I gotta level my dwarf cleric lonelyhobo
[ Parent ]
Of course (none / 1) (#61)
by MotorMachineMercenary on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 05:43:46 AM EST

That's the whole idea. The people who work in Canada in these conditions send/bring money back home building the economy there. Eventually they'll have worker protection in Canada and/or Mexico when they can afford it.

"What's next, sigging a k5er quote about sigging someone on k5?"

[ Parent ]
Sigh... (none / 1) (#53)
by Drog on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 11:00:34 PM EST

You got me. I wasn't actually sorry, just being polite.

So, keeping the cost of food production down, even if it's on the backs of mistreated migrant workers, is actually a good thing, because it lowers the cost of food for consumers, employs poor people like Mexicans that otherwise would not have paying jobs in their own country, and keeps the Canadian growers competitive with the growers in developing countries... like Mexico. And if we improved their working conditions, the Canadian growers would wind up going out of business because consumers would choose to buy the more inexpensive food from Mexico and other developing countries with weaker worker rights.

If this is correct, then how exactly is keeping the growers in business here a good thing, when the alternative is that the migrant workers could work in their own developing countries rather than spending eight months a year away from their families?

If the only way a country that supposedly believes in fair working conditions can compete in an industry (for which subsidies are not allowed) is by importing workers and treating them worse than their own citizens are allowed to be treated, then maybe that country shouldn't be in that industry anymore.

Of course, we could always force welfare recipients to pick tomatoes under substandard conditions. Some people here certainly think that's the way to go. Or we could get rid of our labour laws period so that our companies can maximize their stockholder returns, we can manufacture stuff cheaper and compete with the rest of the world better in lots of industries. Maybe we've all been too idealistic about workers' rights anyway. If we're going to virtually legislate the mistreatment of foreign workers, we might as well do the same for our own.

I don't think I'm na飗e in thinking that defending workers' rights, treating them with dignity and respect no matter where they're from, is the right thing to do. But I suppose it's always possible. I'm certainly not ashamed to think differently from you on this subject.

Looking for political forums? Check out "The World Forum". News feed available here on K5.
[ Parent ]

Double sigh (none / 1) (#62)
by MotorMachineMercenary on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 05:58:07 AM EST

Are you actually thinking when you write? You should start. Anyway:

[snip recount of what I wrote]
"If this is correct, then how exactly is keeping the growers in business here a good thing, when the alternative is that the migrant workers could work in their own developing countries rather than spending eight months a year away from their families?"

Because the workers get paid better in Canada than back home. They are also sending most if not all of the money back home, supporting the economy there as well as producing utility in Canada with the service they provide.

"If the only way a country that supposedly believes in fair working conditions can compete in an industry (for which subsidies are not allowed) is by importing workers and treating them worse than their own citizens are allowed to be treated, then maybe that country shouldn't be in that industry anymore."

Ok, I take back the not thinking -slur I said earlier. I wish so much that more people realized what you just (?) did. That's the crux of the issue of globalization. Western countries should open agricultural products to competition from developing countries. But no, politicians are afraid of stepping on the toes of fat farmers who take billions of dollars and euros worth in subsidies and are protected from competition by tariffs and quotas.

The fact of the matter is that developing countries can produce agricultural products much cheaper than we can and if we truly wanted to help them attain higher level of economic well-being we would open our borders and abolish subsidies. Developing countries could export more of the products where they have a competitive advantage bringing their economies up faster and more sustainably than any aid could ever. But that's not happening any time soon because of weak politicians, fat farmer lobbies and blindness of voters.

And for the record, I'm not for abolishing worker rights. I embrace them and think there's a good reason for them. But at the same time, we have to realize that any drastic action taken in this case will cause more harm than good for the workers in question. The best way to help these people is to let them keep their jobs and hopefully their children will have worker protection once their economy has grown. Because it sure as hell isn't us westerners who will help them, I'm sure most of you agree me on that.

"What's next, sigging a k5er quote about sigging someone on k5?"

[ Parent ]
Triple sigh (2.50 / 2) (#67)
by Drog on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 01:52:04 PM EST

Some of what you say has merit. I still have issues with your conclusions though. My main problem with what you're saying, aside from your personally insulting me with every single posting, is that you are so absolutely certain that the working conditions for the migrant workers cannot be improved, even a bit, without their employers going out of business. There is no way you can possibly know that. The workers in that documentary were risking their jobs because they needed to speak up and fight to have some dignity and respect. So they must have been treated pretty badly. Employers never treat workers that badly unless they have absolutely no respect for them at all. One of the employers in the documentary slipped up and refered to the employers as the migrant worker's "owner". That's pretty telling.

So first off, the racism has to stop.

Second, I realize that in order to give the workers 40 hour work weeks would require twice as many workers, which would require twice the housing costs. But maybe, just maybe, the growers could still accomodate that cost and make less profit. You said they would definitely pass that cost onto the consumer, but that consumers wouldn't buy the products anymore, choosing to buy cheaper food from elsewhere, so the growers would go out of business. Again, you're making assumptions--you haven't seen their books, so you don't know their finances. It could be that rather than closing up shop, the growers could still keep their prices competitive by making less money themselves. Or maybe they would be forced to be creative and think of other ways to cut their costs rather than simply working the living shit out of their workers.

Your assertions that nothing can be done to improve the conditions for the workers is stated out of ignorance and, I suspect based on the way you handle yourself in a debate, a superiority complex that makes you think you know more than all the rest of the stupid, ideological fools that fight for people's rights wherever they may be from. If I'm wrong, and you really don't feel superior to others, I apologize in advance. But man, you sure do sound like it.

Looking for political forums? Check out "The World Forum". News feed available here on K5.
[ Parent ]

Elaboration (none / 1) (#74)
by MotorMachineMercenary on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 04:47:45 PM EST

I'm sure there are ways to improve their conditions without the growers going out of business. But I'm afraid and have seen that if/when you start making such improvements, the regulators (rightly or wrongly) have an all or nothing -approach. They will force the growers to adhere to every single regulation and rule hiking up their costs. Not all of the growers would need to leave the industry, but some of the workers would have to go without these jobs.

I haven't seen to documentary but I have a feeling that the producers showed you the most drastic examples and took statements out of context. And how do you know all the alleged abuses even happened? Just because Pedro says he was abused doesn't necessarily make it so. Even respected journalists and documentarists exaggerate abuses especially in cases like this.

Having said that, I'm sure there are abuses as westerners define it. Fixing these should be our goal. But as I've said in other comments, we have to remember to avoid to not hurt these people more than they are already hurting. Also, we have to realize that Joe Average will not be willing to pay for these workers protection in higher prices.

Your second point. I haven't seen their books, of course. But I know enough about agricultural producers in the west to say that they are highly likely mortified by competition from the developing world. Even with the protective tariffs and duties and government subsidies they are having difficult time competing with imports from Latin America, South-East Asia and Africa. So I don't need to see their books to say with significant confidence that they will be hurt badly if their costs go up. And this hurting is not in the form of profits due to tight margins, but in the form of less work, scale and/or scope of production. This will be first felt in hiring practices, and guess who will lose his job, Jimmy Bob or Rodriguez? Guess who needs that job more?

To reiterate my points, I don't think this is a black&white issue and I don't think all people who support workers' rights think so, either. But I firmly believe that the right solution is more towards the solution "let them be" than "give them the same rights as we have." Yes, the workers need better conditions just from the human rights POV. But we have to weigh that need with the need of the workers to support their families and rise from destitution in their home countries. This is not only a microeconomic issue of several hundred thousand (?) workers, but it's manifestation of macroeconomic problems in developing countries. And these problems are something we rich westerners are in the position to alleviate, but so far have only given them half-assed concessions or short-term aid money instead of opening our borders for their products giving them the opportunities to help themselves. These countries are capable of doing that as we have seen in with the examples India, Thailand, Brazil and numerous others have already shown us to some degree or another. This is contrary to the prevailing western "daddy knows best" -attitude which seems to hurt countries and peoples more than it helps.

And this is the reason for my ad hominems. This very issue is one of my pet peeves and I get very pissed when people who think they are helping these people spread this nonsense they call "human rights," which it isn't. It's just them imposing their western cultural absolutism on people because they don't want to think about backbreaking work when they eat their morning Cheerios or program their VCRs. People like you live in a reality distortion field of immense magnitude and should read some economics before you start making conclusions and recommendations on how to deal with these issues.

The underlying issue here is that us westerners are essentially saying to developing countries that they can't use the same methods our countries used to rise from the poverty of pre-industrial revolution world. We had the same non-existent or poor workers' protection during early industrial revolution and only after we were relatively prosperous we were able to start protecting our workers. Now, we are forcing our rules on developing countries saying they can grow but only if they follow our rules, while at the same time we are not willing to pay the price for those rules in the form of higher prices for our sneakers and coffee beans.

"What's next, sigging a k5er quote about sigging someone on k5?"

[ Parent ]
Is the Canadian dollar (2.00 / 2) (#38)
by davidduncanscott on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 05:29:32 PM EST

almighty? I thought it was just really strong, you know, mighty enough, but not quite almighty. Say 83% mighty.

[ Parent ]
gentle Beethoven? (none / 1) (#41)
by Battle Troll on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 07:06:19 PM EST

How droll/.
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
welcome to the canadian workforce (1.12 / 8) (#17)
by Prophet themusicgod1 on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 01:51:53 PM EST

who cares? everyone has to deal with this shit, don't they? I'll be happy if when I graduate I can find a job paying > 7$/hr.
"I suspect the best way to deal with procrastination is to put off the procrastination itself until later. I've been meaning to try this, but haven't gotten around to it yet."swr
leave Saskatchewan (2.00 / 2) (#40)
by Battle Troll on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 07:05:07 PM EST

The NDP has ruined it. Go to Alberta.
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
leave Alberta (none / 0) (#93)
by Hatamoto on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 01:24:47 AM EST

The crossburners have ruined it. Go to BC.

"Innocence is no defense." - Federal District Judge William H. Yohn (People v. Mumia Abu-Jamal)
[ Parent ]
leave BC (none / 1) (#107)
by onetruemoe on Tue Jan 18, 2005 at 04:24:05 PM EST

The Liberals have sold everything, and the rest (in the Vancouver area, anyway) is currently washing away under the brunt of torrential rains.

This will get attached to your comments. Sigs are typically used for quotations or links.
[ Parent ]
let me get my degree first :S (none / 1) (#117)
by Prophet themusicgod1 on Wed Feb 09, 2005 at 12:53:39 AM EST

"I suspect the best way to deal with procrastination is to put off the procrastination itself until later. I've been meaning to try this, but haven't gotten around to it yet."swr
[ Parent ]
My question... (none / 1) (#20)
by HardwareLust on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 02:32:46 PM EST

is why aren't these migrants sneaking into the U.S.?  I would think that they would get treated better here, and crossing the border from Canada is ridiculously simple.  Heck, we've done it by accident while in the back country.

I'd like to see some analysis of the difference between the U.S. and Canadian treatment of migrants.

Of course, I could be wrong, and the all the migrants here in the U.S. are plotting how to get to Canada for all I know.

Not a bad story, though.  A little polish, and it gets my vote.  I would like to hear what exactly you propose to do to change the situation for the better?

If you disagree, POST, don't moderate!

The American maket is probably somewhat saturated. (2.66 / 3) (#33)
by Stinky Bottoms on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 03:53:20 PM EST

If all the migrant workers were suddenly gone, for instance, the U.S. agriculture industry would immedeatly die out.  

70% of U.S. produce comes from California, and Californis literally lives off of the backs of illegal migrant workers who often live in the desert not far from their fields. They basically camp out.  Some are given proper shelter, but it is never better than a poor housing development.  

Often, their Mexican homes are better than what they experience in the U.S.

[ Parent ]

Pet peeve (2.33 / 3) (#37)
by davidduncanscott on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 05:25:40 PM EST

California metaphorically lives off of the backs of illegal migrant workers. "Literal" is a good word, and it doesn't mean "emphatically".

[ Parent ]
Something I've wondered about (none / 1) (#49)
by Polverone on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 09:07:07 PM EST

If undocumented, underpaid agricultural laborers did quickly disappear from the US and everybody knew they wouldn't be coming back, could automation pick up the slack after a few years or would wages and prices go up and stay up? Is it really difficult and expensive to make berry picking machines or just really easy and inexpensive to use human berry pickers?
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]
The machines would have to be so (none / 1) (#63)
by Stinky Bottoms on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 08:00:42 AM EST

delicate that they'd be quickly turned into sex-trade workers, since strawberries are nearly impossible to keep safe. Even rain screws them up.

The only product that brings in more money per acre than strawberries is pot, though. That's where the real injustice is. Imagine harvesting a product that pays insane amounts of money that was picked by a group of people that cost you only 2% of your total costs.

[ Parent ]

Interesting (none / 0) (#69)
by Polverone on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 02:55:36 PM EST

So you're saying that the costs for picking berries are so small, compared to the overall cost of bring them to consumers, that picker wages could rise significantly without greatly affecting the final price? I hadn't considered that possibility.
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]
Maybe, maybe not (none / 1) (#71)
by Stinky Bottoms on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 03:34:39 PM EST

I'm saying it's a firmly established business that brings in a ton of money on a very delicate type of product that demands the worker have the capacity for being very careful and bent-over all day long.

Basically, without Mexican workers to go to the States illegally, no one would have Strawberries. They would be a delicacy that costed more than you can even imagine.

[ Parent ]

A prohibitively expensive delicacy? (none / 1) (#76)
by Polverone on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 05:41:48 PM EST

Actually, I just did some searching for Californian berry picker wages, and I think you may be overestimating the need for supercheap labor just as I did. This article (regrettably, from a few years ago) says  of Californian berry pickers that "most workers are paid an hourly wage of $4.50 to $6 per hour, plus an incentive or piece rate wage of $1.20 to $1.75 per 12-pint flat." California's hourly minimum wage is $6.75; that's not a whole lot more than they're already getting. I doubt strawberries would be priced out of reach for many people by enforcing minimum wage laws.

I get strawberries out of the back yard garden, so if they did go up to $20 a pint I could make a nice little bundle of cash each summer.

I've picked berries for minimum wage before, and I'd say it beats flipping burgers or doing anything where you interact with the public. The surroundings are nice, your mind is free to wander, and the work is very simple and easy. Of course I was working for relatives and not trying to support a family, so I wasn't treated with contempt or in a high-pressure position. Since they were blackberries I didn't have to bend over all the time but I did have to be careful of being stabbed by plants. I wouldn't stand for much crap at $6/hr.
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]

Living in Florida (2.66 / 3) (#89)
by guidoreichstadter on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 09:26:40 PM EST

Migrant labor is central to a number of agricultural industries in Florida, and conditions have gotten so bad in the recent past that growers have been prosecuted for practicing slavery, for example due the use of armed guards to enforce debt bondage of over 400 workers on the farm.

According to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the rate for tomato pickers has not increased significantly since the 1970's, and the median personal income is USD 5000-7500 per year. They are currently organizing and promoting a national boycott of one of the end users of their product, Taco Bell, in order to put pressure on the growers, due to the legal diffficulty of negotiating directly with their employers. They claim that if Taco Bell, a subsidiary of the Fortune 300 company Tricon Global, would pay one penny more per bushel of tomatoes, that would be enough to double their wage rate.

you are human:
no masters,
no slaves.
[ Parent ]

I'd guess... (none / 0) (#42)
by mcgrew on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 07:37:53 PM EST

That the two dollar an hour difference in pay has something to do with it. That's considerably more than US minimum wage, which is itself far more than migrant laborers make. Most of the migrant laborers down here are here illegally, making it trivial to exploit them mercilessly.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Minimum in my state is (none / 1) (#55)
by HardwareLust on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 11:40:14 PM EST

US$7.35 an hour.  That's actually higher than $7.70 CDN last time I checked, isn't it?

I don't know if migrant workers are eligible or whatever to get the minimum, but if they are, they'd get more here.  Hence, my original question.

If you disagree, POST, don't moderate!

[ Parent ]

canadian dollars (none / 0) (#90)
by Work on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 12:20:35 AM EST

I'm going to assume that the article is in canadian dollars. $7.70 CAD = 6.33 USD. This is around average in the US (minimum wage varies from state to state, with federal minimum being 5.15)

If you're curious, here's a breakdown of minimum wages for canadian provinces (remember, its in CAD): http://canadaonline.about.com/library/bl/blminwage.htm

and for the us by state: http://www.dol.gov/esa/minwage/america.htm So they're not really earning much more money there than here...pennies, at best.

[ Parent ]

Because they only take married men (none / 1) (#66)
by Big Sexxy Joe on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 01:44:22 PM EST

and some single mothers.  That's what the article says.

I'm like Jesus, only better.
Democracy Now! - your daily, uncensored, corporate-free grassroots news hour
[ Parent ]
The Exploitation Of Student Workers In B.C. (1.00 / 2) (#46)
by spooked on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 08:38:15 PM EST

$7.70-9.05 an hour!
As a student in b.c. my employers can and do choose to pay me $6.00 an hour minus goverenment taxes and the like.
lucky mexicans.

advice (none / 1) (#50)
by sunder on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 10:01:26 PM EST

Tell them to fuck off and that your 500 "training" hours are done. If they're only hiring 6$ an hour workers, then you pat yourself on the back for avoiding a shitty workplace.

[ Parent ]
More advice (none / 0) (#52)
by Moooo Cow on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 10:20:09 PM EST

You'll find that literacy has a positive correlation with pay. Perhaps you should work on that.

[ Parent ]
There is plenty of employment ... (none / 0) (#57)
by sbash on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 12:00:45 AM EST

You just have to get out of the mall and look around. You will not get paid more than $8 because your boss knows he can replace you for someone he would start at $6.

"Eating curry with the boys? You must be British or boring" - Stinky Bottoms
[ Parent ]
What really burns me about this story.. (2.40 / 5) (#47)
by Kwil on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 08:53:47 PM EST

..is that it means I have to start going into the queue again to give this tripe the -1 it deserves.

The rest of you slackards are falling down on the job here.

At any rate, subject matter could be interesting. The treatment it's received here is complete crap.

I mean, what's the issue? It's not even defined whether the exploitation is legal or illegal. Is the issue the government taking taxes from people working in the country? That's a non-issue so far as I'm concerned. Same thing happens no matter what country you work in. You go to work in France, you can expect french pay-roll taxes to come off. You decide to leave before you get any benefit from them? Sucks to be you.

Is the issue illegal behavior at the farms? That's simply a case for the authorities.

Is the issue legalized exploitation? Okay, maybe there's something to discuss, but this article doesn't give any indications of what's legal and what's not. $7/hour certainly doesn't seem like exploitation to me here in Alberta, where minimum wage is only $5.90/hour. 12 hour days? Been there. Big deal. You do it for a while and then you're done.

No, the worst thing about this story is that it made it to the front page.

That Jesus Christ guy is getting some terrible lag... it took him 3 days to respawn! -NJ CoolBreeze

The main issue... (2.66 / 3) (#54)
by Drog on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 11:19:02 PM EST

... is legalized exploitation. The migrant agricultural workers are excluded from legislation that protects every other worker in the country. And yeah, I've worked 12 hour days too. But I've never worked 12-15 hour days in an unsafe manual labour job without breaks 7 days a week without any days off for 8 months straight. That's abusive.

Looking for political forums? Check out "The World Forum". News feed available here on K5.
[ Parent ]
I know of a large farming company (none / 1) (#56)
by sbash on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 11:52:00 PM EST

probably responsible for the canned beans you eat (if you live in south-eastern Ontario). They have workers that come up for the summer from the Carribean. These workers get at least $10 and hour and are treated really well by the employer. Though I will admit some racism from the workers, but nothing I would consider abuse. More like snubbing. The workers tend to keep their comments behind the foreigners backs. What amused me is the foreign workers will plan birthing so it happens when they are in Canada!

"Eating curry with the boys? You must be British or boring" - Stinky Bottoms
Amusement (none / 1) (#75)
by blaaf on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 05:30:55 PM EST

It may amuse you, but these workers are making a rational decision. Without any professional skills, these workers have no hope of emigrating to Canada or doing any work there beyond shitty seasonal migrant work. By having their kids in Canada they give them a chance to get into Canada's wonderful socialized system, where they can receive an education, healthcare, and all the benefits of society which are so lacking in Mexico (and America to a large extent).

[ Parent ]
Also for the parents. (none / 1) (#80)
by mindstrm on Sat Jan 15, 2005 at 05:05:22 PM EST

I may be mistaken, but I believe they also gain themselves the ability to stay in Canada.  If you have Canadian children, the parents get certain rights automatically (like residency, which implies employability, healthcare, etc)

[ Parent ]
Yeah, I know... (none / 0) (#116)
by sbash on Wed Jan 26, 2005 at 06:23:18 PM EST

That is why it amused me. How else is it amusing?

"Eating curry with the boys? You must be British or boring" - Stinky Bottoms
[ Parent ]
My problem with this (3.00 / 2) (#58)
by maniac1860 on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 01:14:14 AM EST

This article is kind of all over the place, but the real problem I see with this is the way that the government promotes the conditions that make this kind of thing possible. As other posters have said, these workers make their own choices, and should be free to make them. The problem comes when the government forces people to work constantly or be deported. This allows companies to pay far less than they should, since in addition to a pay check, they also control whether the government will come and kick the person out of the country. If people choose to work in shitty jobs, the government shouldn't stop them, but it certainly shouldn't help force them to work those jobs.

ONLY 18000 Workers? (none / 0) (#59)
by cmholm on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 02:17:22 AM EST

There are about 1.6 million or so non-American migrant farm workers in the US. Given the size of the Canadian farm scene, it seems like the 18000 legal migrant workers we're talking about here are just the tip of the iceberg. And, it seems that maintaining a legal program for them to work in Canada isn't protecting workers any better than the under-the-counter system the US has. If Canadians can't restrain themselves from screwing the immigrant migrant workers, how in the hell would the US. Bush can definately stuff his renewed braceros program.

Total illegal immigrants (none / 0) (#73)
by AnomymousCoward on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 04:25:36 PM EST

Remember, that number is just farm workers ... There's an estimated 10,000,000 illegal immigrants in California alone, trading cheap labor for expensive healthcare, bad schools, horrible insurance rates, and a lower quality of life.

It's not too late to save the state.

Vobbo.com: video blogs made easy: point click smile
[ Parent ]
That's the face of migrant labor (none / 1) (#64)
by jonny dov on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 08:39:32 AM EST

When I was in college, I did a stint over the summer detassling corn in Iowa. Apart from the one manager who choked his worker, the conditions you list aren't that far off. We walked about 14-20 miles a day, didn't have days off, and in fact, we didn't even have a place to live apart from camping in a nearby corn field. We had 'solar heated' showers, which in essence just means that the water was kept in big black barrels. Migrant labor is no joke, and I pity the people who are forced by circumstance to accept it as a living, but you haven't really named anything that terrifying compared to my experience (as a college-educated white man from the United States).

INVADE CANADA (1.00 / 7) (#68)
by The Black Ness Monster on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 02:44:57 PM EST


Listen, (1.66 / 9) (#77)
by Esspets on Sat Jan 15, 2005 at 11:54:00 AM EST

I really didn't even make an effort to read this article. All I know is that cheap food is good. And because cheap food is good, I like having cheap food and broadly endorse 1.6 million chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and bonobos harvesting the produce that I purchase with my corporatist blood money. For instance, I find myself purchasing zucchini squash, lettuce, avocados, tomatoes, and mushrooms to put together a lovely summer salad...in the dead of winter! And because I am not competing with chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and bonobos for fruit harvesting jobs nor do I know anybody in that position (not that I would care anyway), I must give props to commercial farms for all that they have done for me: the consumer.

From a Canadian / Ontarian (none / 1) (#78)
by The Devil on Sat Jan 15, 2005 at 02:03:17 PM EST

I'm a Canadian living in Ontario. Fairly recently we had an election both in Ontario and federally. The people of Canada, against my best wishes and loud warnings, voted for the Liberal party both in Ontario and the federal government.

Now I'm an avid NDPer and I campaigned with some pretty amazing people to try and get some better legislation to try and prevent these sorts of exploitive policies, but I have to say that most Canadians are very stupid when it comes to politics.

The campaigns that won the Liberals the election was based on the fear of the Tories getting in, and not at all based on the platforms of the parties involved.

In Ontario, NDP candidate Howard Hampton even won the provincial debate -- hands down, and he still lost the election. It was worse for me than many other NDPers, because I was there when it happened, right in the thick of things. The candidate for Etobicoke North faced illegal bussing of voters from other ridings, brought in by the Liberals specifically to vote for their candidate. Our signs were kicked down by rivals. People were threatening voters to vote for the Liberal at the polling stations right over our riding. It was non-violent chaos (like nobody got hurt AFAIK, but the tactics used by the Liberals and Tories were illegal). Our opponent or someone at the local TV station played a huge trick on our candidate: they arranged a riding debate, and asked our candidate to show up at the TV station. Then they phoned him and told him not to show because one of the other candidates could not make it -- so it would be a phone debate. Our candidate got the call and they asked him some questions about the NDP platform, and he answered them very professionally. At the end of his answer, the interviewer cut him off and said something to the effect of, "That's all very nice and well, Mr. Sodhi, but how are you going to pay for all that?" The TV station hung up on our candidate at the very end of that question, before he could answer. And then they said, "He HUNG UP!" Now to the viewers at home, it looked like the station really got our candidate scared and he fled because he did not have the answer. You see, the reality is, our candidate was duped because the other two candidates for the Liberals and Conservatives were actually at the TV station doing the debate. Do you see how shady Canadian politics really is? I witnessed the aftermath of this. Our candidate was very deflated and the community he was running in lost a lot of respect for him after this incident. It likely swung quite a few of our candidate's supporters to the dark side of the force. And there are stories like this all over Canada during *every* election. Also, the unions told us during the Ontario election that they were going to side with us. The numbers proved them liars.

That was my first and likely last taste of politics. It's a dirty game, and nobody wins but the corporations and the elite.

So if you ever really want to change something in Canada, it's gotta be by some kind of crisis. The media will pick up on this story likely and we may hear about this on CBC. But unless that happens, there is never any change, because whatever is swept under the rug usually just stays the same.

There was no true justice in the Sponsorship Scandal.

I know one thing is for sure. If the NDP had won federally, I'm 100% sure that the SAWP program would be clamped down on, and the workers would be treated with a much higher level of respect -- the kind of respect that you would expect from a true democracy. Canada, like many other North American neighbours, has a long way to go before reaching Utopia, and the road is getting longer, not shorter.

Are the NDP any better? (none / 0) (#85)
by p3d0 on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 03:44:01 PM EST

The NDP had their chance at running the province, and the longer they were in power, the more they resembled the PCs and the Liberals.
Patrick Doyle
My comments do not reflect the opinions of my employer.
[ Parent ]
The NDP are no panacea (none / 0) (#92)
by Hatamoto on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 01:11:14 AM EST

I was unfortunate enough to live through the tenure of the NDP in BC. A situation nearly intolerable under Wee Willy Woodenshoes and the Social Credit scammasters was made totally intolerable by Harcourt and his team of fraudulent court jesters.

I like some of what the NDP wants to do, and has done, for our country. I also like some of what the liberals have done, and even the conservatives (the small-c Joe Clark era fiscal conservatives, not the latest brand of bible-chewing, cross-burning hate-personified-in-a-five-hundred-dollar-suit reform party conservatives), and over the years have voted for each. The reason why I didn't vote NDP this time was twofold:

#1 - It was partially a tactical vote. The liberals, for all their dynasty, waste and arrogance, are infinately preferable to the pack of feral dogs that would rip our country apart and sell it peicemeal south of the border. I lived 15 years in Alberta, and I know all too well the kind of venom would be released on this great country if the crew that used to wear "republic of alberta" hats actually got any sort of actual power. The reason that a tactical vote was necessary is because...

#2 - Jack Layton and much of the NDP are totally unelectable. I watched all the debates with keen interest. I collected all the various bits of paper propoganda each party produced. The bottom line is that while the NDP has a solid basis from which to launch a serious challenge, with very few exceptions, the candidates come across as very fringe and extreme. Note: I don't say that the IDEAS THEMSELVES are bad, but that the representatives lack polish and that leads to feeling a lack of confidence in their abilities. Add to that the unfortunate circumstances surrounding Svend Robinson and you've got a hard road to travel to get votes. Pity about his klepto tendancies... he's one of the few left in the party with any real cohones, imo.

I've met Alexa on several occasions (I'm in her riding, so it isn't all that difficult) and while I find her an exceptionally competant and genuinely charismatic person, she was unfortunately the one who presided over the party during worst period in NDP history. I don't know exactly what needs to be done to recussitate the flagging NDP, but I do feel that if Layton's the one who's ultimately responsible for getting the job done it'll not be more than 2 elections before the NDP loses its national party status.

"Innocence is no defense." - Federal District Judge William H. Yohn (People v. Mumia Abu-Jamal)
[ Parent ]

Amen. (none / 0) (#95)
by Pxtl on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 04:18:13 AM EST

I miss Alexa.

[ Parent ]
She's still around (none / 0) (#96)
by Hatamoto on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 05:27:01 AM EST

... but people wisely realized that she wasn't getting the job done. Don't get me wrong, I think she's a great person and a great MP... hell, she might even have been a great prime minister if ever making it to the post... but she's just not the right person to lead the NDP into the 21st century.

Frankly, I don't think Layton is either, based on what I saw of his actions in the federal election. Perhaps he can polish that image and appeal to the more mainstream-but-left-leaning types that like the underlying message but aren't prepared to put money on tinfoil futures. ;)

"Innocence is no defense." - Federal District Judge William H. Yohn (People v. Mumia Abu-Jamal)
[ Parent ]

I agree! (2.00 / 4) (#79)
by sllort on Sat Jan 15, 2005 at 03:09:08 PM EST

The government needs to step in and regulate these people's working conditions. Hopefully we can all look forward to a day when legislation makes it more profitable to higher Canadian workers and the Mexicans just stay home and fucking starve.
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
CAD 7.70 is not a bad pay! (none / 0) (#81)
by dimaq on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 02:31:24 PM EST

it should be around minimal wage I presume. considering they get to work 12 to 15 hours a day 7 days a week, their monthly salary is probably about half of a canadian engineer - come to think of it about my monthly salary.

I wouldn't count that bad by any measure.

It's not bad... it's HORRIBLE! (none / 0) (#84)
by alt on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 02:54:31 PM EST

I'd love to see anyone try and live a decent life on $7.70/hr in Vancouver, B.C. That's not a living wage, that's an existance wage. My personal experience is that one needs to make double that.

[ Parent ]
That's more than what I'm living on (3.00 / 2) (#99)
by Teuthida on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 10:49:14 AM EST

Let's see... 7.70 * 10 hours * 7 days * 52 weeks. That's about $28000 before CPP, EI, income tax, etc. Even working 40 hour weeks at $7.70/hr would be about $16000 gross salary.

The last couple years I've been living on $17000/yr. The past summer I spent about $2500 on an entertainment system. The summer before, I spent $1000 upgrading my computer and $2000 on an engagement ring. Also, new digital camera, hard drive mp3 player, flute, and I forget what all else. My textbooks also come out of that money. I eat well, pay my bills on time. I never worry about money.

How is this not a living wage again?

Granted, I'm not living in Vancouver (Waterloo, ON), but neither are these migrant workers.

[ Parent ]

Different budgets (none / 0) (#113)
by aylwin on Sat Jan 22, 2005 at 12:48:54 AM EST

The Mexican government accepts 2 kinds of people for the SAWP: men and women. The majority are men, who are almost always married with (several, say 4+) children; the women are generally single mothers - either way, so-chosen to ensure their likelihood of returning to Mexico (rather than trying to stay illegally in Canada).

You can imagine how their needs might be different from yours. Also, they work for 8 months of the year - not the 52 weeks you base your calculation upon - and often have no say as to where they're going to be dropped off for groceries. So sometimes a forced trip to Dominion or Loblaws takes a huge bite out one's paycheque, as opposed to Price Chopper or No Frills.

[ Parent ]

i wonder (2.50 / 2) (#91)
by Work on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 12:27:01 AM EST

how much of this pay is deducted as "rent" for their contractually obligated sardine conditions, as well as other fees they have to use. A classic scheme would be to charge fees for usage of the tools with which to clean, pick or whatever it is they do. Typical sweatshop scheme for paying your workers the legal amount, yet sucking them dry in practice...

[ Parent ]
Stop babysitting. (1.33 / 3) (#86)
by Surial on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 07:26:40 PM EST

They have the information. They know what the job entails. Go explain to them about the CPP thing. Other than that - leave them in their rights. You're treating these immigrant workers like they can't make choices for themselves. If they accept 8 months, no breaks, piss poor salary by your canadian standards, hazards, etc, etc, etc - then clearly, it's THEIR CHOICE that this is better than whatever alternative they have.

Their choice. I'm with you as long as you're talking about increasing flow of information and such, but the moment you're saying 'we should put a stop to this', or 'we should give them more money' (which, unless you're personally going to field the cash, will automatically result in less of these workers. Learn Economics 101, would you?), I'll write you off as a naive idiot.

Sorry, but that's the way the world works. You can fix it, slowly, and carefully. Rash decisions in aid to the less fortunate, including dumping massive money into charity and such, almost always backfires.

"is a signature" is a signature.

The article specifically mentioned a number (none / 1) (#88)
by guidoreichstadter on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 09:04:44 PM EST

of ways in which these workers are being exploited, such as being obliged to live in sub-standard housing and being exposed to dangerous chemicals without safety equipment or training, among others. I assume the author would like to see these things ended. No where in the article did the author suggest "dumping massive money into charity."

Once upon a time, it was common for working people to stand up for each other. They realied that this gave them better opportunities than anything the boss was willing to offer. These workers have the choice the boss offers them, you have the choice to stand with them.

you are human:
no masters,
no slaves.
[ Parent ]

That's not fair... (none / 0) (#104)
by Shara on Tue Jan 18, 2005 at 11:47:04 AM EST

Other than that - leave them in their rights. You're treating these immigrant workers like they can't make choices for themselves. If they accept 8 months, no breaks, piss poor salary by your canadian standards, hazards, etc, etc, etc - then clearly, it's THEIR CHOICE that this is better than whatever alternative they have.

The point of living in a first world, fairly socialist country is that you shouldn't HAVE to pick between a rock and a hard place. All persons living and working here are entitled to a certain level of respect and rights. That's the ideological foundation on which we're built.

Secondly, this attitude that once a choice is made you should just shut up [or "leave them"] is completely contrary to the revolutionary forces that guide progress. The nice thing about being human is that if we don't like something, we can work to change it. Everyone SHOULD work to change it. "Don't rock the boat" is cowardly at best. And if someone is in a position where any movements to change the system that causes them harm will cause them MORE harm, then it is perfectly legitimate for people outside the immediate situation, like myself, Sook Yin Lee and Drog to help change it for them.

I don't think anyone implied that money needs to be "dumped" anywhere, or that "rash decisions" are going to be made. Spreading information about a bad situation is 100% a good idea. It might be the decision that gives the information to the person with the best plan to change things.



[ Parent ]

I'm all for progress... (none / 0) (#110)
by Surial on Thu Jan 20, 2005 at 11:09:23 PM EST

But 99% of the folks who proclaim to mean well for these immigrants end up ruining their choice; making it so that they can go from either staying in mexico or working in canada to staying in mexico, and then have the guts to say 'it's better this way'. I haven't seen ANYONE suggest a decent way to make life better for these fellows WITHOUT undermining the very economical benefits that's generating the jobs in the first place.

The only half-assed thing I've seen so far is to improve information flow about the working conditions. I'm all for that, as I said.
"is a signature" is a signature.

[ Parent ]

oh shut up (1.33 / 3) (#97)
by j1mmy on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 07:52:25 AM EST

forced to work gruelling 12-15 hour days

Forced? Who, exactly, is forcing them? They could just have easily stayed in Mexico.

get real (none / 0) (#102)
by shorecat on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 09:12:36 PM EST

they have a choice? They knew what they were getting into? YOU poor elitist fools. go live their life from the start and see what choices exist. Go live the life and then speak. i have. your words echo "let them eat cake" and borders final solution mentality. People are not dying trying to cross the border, jack ass, for a lifestyle upgrade nor are they are aware of all that goes on over here in in the cannuck central lands. As if all of your reasoning excuses slavery. Which, I assusre you it is exactly that. Physical labor extreme living conitions and psychological torure. Come on out and play moron. we can work the fields together sometime and see how you last.

[ Parent ]
Choosing to starve... (none / 1) (#106)
by badtux on Tue Jan 18, 2005 at 03:38:11 PM EST

is not a choice unless you are suicidal.

If your choice is to be a slave, or to starve, you will choose slavery. Guaranteed.

- Badtux the Realist Penguin
In a time of chimpanzees, I was a penguin
[ Parent ]

Welcome to low wage jobs (none / 0) (#105)
by omegadan on Tue Jan 18, 2005 at 01:04:27 PM EST

I worked at a walmart one xmas when I couldn't find an IT job (still can't, but wtf...). It was about the same, unsafe conditions, abuse by management and customers, unpaid overtime, and even being held against your will (walmart locks its employees in illegally at night), and LONG shifts. And the threat was always, put up with our BS or be fired (and starve). Even walmart jobs were hard to come by at the time.

Religion is a gateway psychosis. - Dave Foley

Regardless (none / 0) (#112)
by aylwin on Sat Jan 22, 2005 at 12:41:04 AM EST

Even when you can't find a job in your desired field of work, you have the option of finding an alternate employer. Your housing isn't dependent on your employer. Your way of getting food in your mouth isn't dependent on your employer. Your immigration status isn't dependent on your employer. The phone line you use to call home isn't dependent on your employer. You're not several hundred dollars (several times that in pesos) in debt for having started this job. Getting a better picture?

[ Parent ]
The system doesn't work. (none / 1) (#108)
by guidoreichstadter on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 08:58:10 PM EST

You only have to open your eyes to see the billions and billions of exploited people. Nearly two billion grind through existence, able to claim less than the equivalent of two dollars a day from the global social product. So, nearly 40 000 people die each day from hunger and easily treated diseases, numbering around 14 million each year. Meanwhile, you yourself are growing closer to death each day, an unnecessary death that could be prevented by the application of human ingenuity and labor to the technical project of biological immortality.

There is a story about how pythons are hunted- the hunters build a cage of stakes in the forest and place a live pig within. The python slides through the bars of the cage, and devours the pig, engorging itself so much that it can no longer slip out. The hunters then stop in at their leisure and kill the python.

Similarly, you have been allowed yourself to be seduced by the attractions of the material world- you hope to find a short, comfortable life by enjoying the opportunities history has given you to exploit other people and to benefit from other's exploitation of other people. You eat the very flesh of your fellow human beings. You allow yourself to be entrapped by the rules of a system you were born into, and you become so fattened on pleasure, wealth, and power, that you allow your loyalities and dreams to be bought and sold, so that your mind is no longer willing or able to escape from the pleasant trap.

The system works all too well.

you are human:
no masters,
no slaves.

Yes I think so (none / 1) (#118)
by jojo0901 on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 03:17:21 AM EST

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The Exploitation Of Migrant Workers In Canada | 117 comments (101 topical, 16 editorial, 0 hidden)
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