UFCW Canada

UFCW Canada

December 16, 2009 09:19 ET

Reminder: Farmworkers quest for human rights at the Supreme Court on Dec. 17

The Province of Ontario vs. its Farm workers: “Farm workers are human beings. We’re not farm animals,” says agriculture worker who looks to the Supreme Court to uphold her human rights

Attention: Agriculture Editor, Assignment Editor, Business/Financial Editor, News Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor OTTAWA - MEDIA ADVISORY FOR THURSDAY, DECEMBER 17 --(Marketwire - Dec. 16, 2009) - ATTENTION: NATIONAL & OTTAWA/NCR NEWS AND ASSSIGNMENT EDITORS

This Thursday, December 17, a decades-long quest by Ontario farm workers to regain their human rights arrives at the Supreme Court of Canada. It is the final stop for a case that stems from a Charter challenge launched by the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada (UFCW Canada) union on behalf of Ontario agriculture workers such as Mindy Leng - who in 1995 had had their rights to unionize stripped away by legislation brought in by then Ontario Premier Mike Harris.

"Farm workers are human beings. We're not farm animals. We have human rights. We should be treated like other workers in Ontario and be allowed to unionize," says Leng, who on Thursday will be attending the Supreme Court in Ottawa as it hears arguments that Ontario's ban on farm unions is unconstitutional under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"This is a question about justice and equality," says Wayne Hanley, the National President of UFCW Canada which is the respondent in the Supreme Court case. "These workers are looking to the Supreme Court to tell the McGuinty government, once and for all, that agricultural workers in Ontario have the same human rights as every other Ontario worker - including their rights, guaranteed by the Charter, to join a union and bargain collectively."

"UFCW Canada has stood shoulder-to-shoulder, decade by decade, with these workers, and we will continue to stand with them until their Charter rights are respected, and their violation ends."

ATTN: FOR THURSDAY, DECEMBER 17 AT THE SUPREME COURT OF CANADA AT 9 A.M.

WHAT:
Supreme Court of Canada to hear that the human, labour and Charter rights
of Ontario's 80,000 agriculture workers are being violated by Ontario legislation

WHAT ELSE:
The case would not only affect the rights of the 80,000 workers in question, but could also
affect the rights of other workers in Canada in a variety of sectors who by legislation are
prevented from unionizing.

WHEN:
Thursday, December 17, 2009, Supreme Court arguments scheduled 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.

TV/Radio/Media interviews available at the Supreme Court, December 17 at:
8 a.m. - 8:50 a.m.
12:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.
4p.m. - 5p.m
(Interviews earlier in the week, and for other times can be arranged)

WHERE:
The Supreme Court of Canada (Foyer)
301 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0J1

WHO IS AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW:

MINDY LENG, AGRICULTURE WORKER FROM WINDSOR, ONTARIO will be at the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court case stems from an Ontario factory-farm union organizing drive
Mindy Leng was involved in that was thwarted by the Province.

WAYNE HANLEY, NATIONAL PRESIDENT, UFCW Canada
UFCW Canada is the union Mindy joined, is the Respondent in this case
(Fraser vs. A.G. [Ontario]), and is the union that for more than two
decades has led the campaign for the labour, health and safety rights of all agriculture workers across Canada.

STAN RAPER - NATIONAL COORDINATOR, AGRICULTURAL WORKERS ALLIANCE (AWA)
The AWA is Canada's most comprehensive, community-based multilingual counseling and
support service for agriculture workers. The AWA operates nine support centresacross Canada,
including four in Ontario: and handles tens of thousands of files a year documenting worker
concerns about housing, workplace safety and employer abuse.

PAUL CAVALLUZZO - CAVALLUZZO, HAYES, SHILTON, MCINTYRE AND CORNISH
Paul Cavalluzzo is one of Canada's leading Constitutional lawyers and is arguing on behalf
of the workers and their union. He will be available fori nterview only after the conclusion
of the Supreme Court hearings.

FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TO ARRANGE INTERVIEWS CONTACT:
Michael Forman, National Representative
UFCW CANADA National Communications Department
416-579-8330
mforman@ufcw.ca

*******

BACKGROUNDER:

OTTAWA, ONT. - "Farm workers are human beings. We're not farm animals. We have human rights. We should be treated like other workers in Ontario and be allowed to unionize," says Mindy Leng, who on Thursday will be attending the Supreme Court in Ottawa as it hears arguments that Ontario's ban on farm unions is unconstitutional under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It is the final stop for a case that stems from a Charter challenge launched by the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada (UFCW Canada) union on behalf of Ontario agriculture workers such as Mindy Leng - who in 1995 had had their rights to unionize stripped away by legislation brought in by then Ontario Premier Mike Harris.

UFCW Canada is the country's largest private sector union. For two decades it has led the campaign to protect and promote the rights of Canada's agricultural workers, in the courts, and in the communities where farm workers work. UFCW Canada, in association with the Agriculture Workers Alliance, also operates nine agriculture worker support centres across Canada that in 2009 handled thousands of files assisting farm workers across Canada with their health, safety, housing and workplace rights concerns.

One of these AWA centres is in Leamington, Ontario just a few kilometers from the multi-million dollar mushroom farm factory where Mindy was paid by each mushroom she picked.

"We wanted a union. We needed a union. It was our right," says Leng, a Windsor, Ontario resident. But in 2003 the Harris/Eaves Tories said "unions are not allowed under the AEPA", and shortly after Meng and dozens of other UFCW Canada union supporters were fired by their employer. Without a union contract, Ontario farm workers, to this day, can be fired or repatriated at any time without cause.

The Liberal McGuinty government has continued the Harris legacy of the farm union ban, as well as other restricted rights for farm workers, in spite of a November 2008 Ontario Court ruling which ordered Ontario to drop the union-banning AEPA legislation because it was unconstitutional. The decision pointed to the Section 2(d) Freedom of Association Rights which under the Charter guarantees the right to organize for the purposes of collective bargaining (for more on that ruling see www.ufcw.ca/quest).

But instead of following that November 2008 order, The McGuinty Liberals appealed it to the Supreme Court, which will hear the case on Thursday, December 17 commencing at 9 a.m.

"This is a question about justice and equality," says Wayne Hanley, the National President of UFCW Canada which is the respondent in the Supreme Court case. "These workers are looking to the Supreme Court to tell the McGuinty government, once and for all, that agricultural workers in Ontario have the same human rights as ever other Ontario worker - including their rights, guaranteed by the Charter, to join a union and bargain collectively."

"UFCW Canada has stood shoulder-to-shoulder, decade by decade, with these workers, and we will continue to stand with them until their Charter rights are respected, and their violation ends."

-30- /For further information:

www.ufcw.ca
www.awa-atc.ca/ IN: AGRICULTURE, ECONOMY, FOOD, JUSTICE, LABOUR

Contact Information

  • Michael Forman, National Office Communications, UFCW Canada
    Primary Phone: 416-675-1104 ext. 249
    Secondary Phone: 416-579-8330
    E-mail: mforman@ufcw.ca