The Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA) grows stronger this season with the addition of another new centre — and an expanded outreach agenda to agriculture workers across the country. With the opening of a new centre in
Saint-Eustache, Quebec this year the AWA will operate ten agriculture worker support centres across Canada: centres in Surrey, Kelowna and Abbotsford, B.C.; Portage la Prairie, Manitoba; Simcoe, Virgil, Bradford and Leamington, Ontario; and in Saint-Remi, and the newest centre in St-Eustache, Quebec.
Pictured l-r: Peter Barillas, Bradford AWA; Ingrid Zea, Virgil AWA; Rene Vidal, Leamington AWA; Stan Raper, National Office; Raul Gatica, Surrey AWA; Alexis Barillas, National Office; Marie-Jean Vandoorne, St-Remi AWA; Lucy Luna, Abbotsford AWA; Victor Carrozzino, National Office; Sandra Martinez, Kelowna AWA; Virgilio Ayala, St-Eustache AWA; Alex Banaag, National Office. Absent from photo: Andrea Galvez, National Office; Fanny Belcoski, Simcoe AWA.
Recently, new and veteran AWA staff from across the country met in Toronto for a week-long training and planning session to make Canada’s most comprehensive support network for agriculture workers even better.
“The plan is to build on our strength,” says Stan Raper, the national co-ordinator of the AWA (seen in photo at the Toronto session).
“After two decades of fighting for the rights of agriculture workers, and a decade of operating support centres, we have built up a lot of trust with the brothers and sisters. They know that the AWA and UFCW Canada are there for them. And the recent decisions in Quebec and B.C. (see this issue and Directions 10.16) that uphold the rights of these workers to organize with us are also very encouraging. The strategy now is to move that agenda forward.”
That agenda includes expanded outreach to workers too far way to come to the centres says Raper. “The plan is to get out to those communities with staff and volunteers and let workers know about their rights, and about the services we can provide to them as members of the AWA.” (Activists interested in volunteering can call their closest AWA centre —see www.awa-ata.ca).
Expanded access to education is also key this season. AWA members and their families now have free access to webCampus. Migrant workers can also apply for the recently launched UFCW Canada scholarship program for migrant and temporary workers. Free workshops on Health and Safety, Know Your Rights, CPP and Workers Compensation are also planned throughout the season; as well as English as a Second Language (ESL), and French as a Second Language (FSL) programs.
“Across this country, UFCW Canada and the AWA are committed to the rights, safety and empowerment of all agriculture workers,” says National President Wayne Hanley. “The gains we have made across the country demonstrate that agriculture workers want support and representation, and they want it from us. We welcome them.”