In an open petition letter to the President of Mexico and Prime Minister of Canada, Mexican farmworker members of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change expose the reality of working and living in Canada and demand Permanent Status for All.
Inspired by and united with Jamaican farmworker comrades, who wrote an open letter to their government in August, Mexican members write, “The billion-dollar agri-food industry depends on us, the workers. For more than half a century our well-being has not has not been thought of, and we are still treated as disposable objects”.
Migrant farmworker members invite political leaders “to be part of history and give us the respect we deserve […] and end this system of modern slavery.”
Among migrant farmworkers’ key demands outlined in the open letter: Permanent resident status to all upon arrival, including seasonal farm workers.
Do you agree? Sign below to add your voice!
Full letter written by Farmworkers:
To: Citizen President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau
Citizen President of the Republic of the United Mexican States
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau
Dear President and Prime Minister:
We are a group of Mexican agricultural workers and members of the Migrant Workers Alliance for a Change employed as migrant workers, many of us under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program in Canada. We have been working here for 2 to 20 years.
We want to tell you the truth about working on farms and food processing in Canada and share our demands for change. Thousands of united voices are rising from Canadian farms and we stand together with our colleagues from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Philippines, and Caribbean countries just to mention a few. We work in fields and food processing factories, in greenhouses, vineyards, and fisheries.
The billion-dollar agri-food industry depends on us, the workers. For more than half a century, our well-being has not been thought of, and we are still treated as disposable objects for employers. We sleep in bunk beds with bed bugs, in houses full of rats, sharing the bathroom with more than ten people, we have no privacy. We feel powerless arriving at a house without the warmth of our family, sad and alone, we feel a huge emptiness, we only see the tired faces of our coworkers. It is humiliating not being able to have a private call with our families, the bosses tell us that having privacy is not important. Many of us spend more than half the year separated from our families.
For decades many of our colleagues have lost their lives in Canada, many others have permanent damage to their health that they cannot afford. The abuse at work that we experience is inhumane, we have to endure shouting, racist comments, insults (like “eat sh*t”, “son of a b*tch”, “you’re a piece of sh*t”, “you’re useless”). The vast majority of the insults we receive are not in Spanish, but we know they insult us because they are screaming at us. They refer to us as if we were their property. They punish us by taking away days or hours of work if they think we don’t work fast enough, and when we don’t work we can’t send money to our families who depend on us.
It is dangerous for us to defend our rights. Employers threaten to fire us, deport us, and kick us out of the program. Without permanent status, employers have the power to get rid of us whenever they please as if they owned us.
When we talk to the consulate they tell us to listen to the employer, that we are here to work and if we do not like it we can go back to Mexico, that there are many people waiting to replace us. Temporary status makes it impossible for us to defend our rights.
President, you are responsible for our well-being, so we ask you to do the following:
– Pressure the Canadian government to implement and enforce National Housing Standards;
– Protect us at work by implementing an anonymous system for reporting abusive employers that won’t put our safety or jobs at risk. We ask you that when we make a complaint stand up and represent us;
– Facilitate and support us to get an open work permit so we can transfer to another farm, either during the season or before the start of each season;
– Ensuring job security and ending the practice of observations made by employers in our files that are not real, this often results in the expulsion of workers from the program without the possibility of appeal or transfer;
– Make sure that the Mexican consulates in Canada do their job to see to the welfare of Mexican workers abroad, that the consuls have contact with us, not with the employers, create a commission of migrant workers that evaluate the work of the consulate because nobody supervises them, they can do what they want with us,
– Allow us to represent ourselves and our interests in contract negotiations;
Provide more education about the contracts we sign, what our rights are in Canada, and support us in accessing and enforcing our rights;
– Allow access to benefits that we pay through deductions and taxes, such as: regular unemployment insurance benefits, parental benefits as was the case before the amendment to the law in 2012, full pension and survivor benefits to our families in case of death, child tax benefits that any Canadian citizen can obtain and for that reason;
– Call on the Canadian government to grant permanent resident status to all upon arrival, including seasonal farm workers.
As agricultural workers in Canada we experience abuses, unjustified dismissals, deportations, mistreatment and above all intimidation, because without permanent status in Canada we have to endure all of the above with the vague hope that next year we will return. Everything mentioned is a system of exploitation, in which the Canadian and Mexican governments take part by ignoring complaints, actively participating in deportations, and giving more power to employers than to workers.
We know our fellow Mexicans in other industries, like construction and warehouse workers, cleaners, international students, and undocumented workers are also facing injustice and are denied equal rights. We all need permanent resident status for all to protect ourselves and live with dignity.
We invite you to be part of history and give us the respect we deserve both in Canada and in Mexico and to end this system of modern day slavery.
Att: Written and signed by Agricultural workers and Migrants members of MWAC
Miriam, Victor, Oscar, Blanca, Gabriel C., Esteban, Maximino, Humberto, Hernandez, Pablo, Esteban, Victor R., Octavio, Jorge, Ines, Bibiano, Gabriel, Byron, Juan, Prisciliano, Moises, Cruz, Carlos, Leonel, Samuel, Refugio, Samuel