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Leamington, ON - May 27, 2012 - More than 400 migrant and domestic agriculture workers gathered to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA) Support Centre in Leamington. Over the past decade, the Leamington AWA centre has become an invaluable resource and friend to the thousands of agriculture workers who work each season in the Leamington, Essex County, and Chatham-Kent areas.
Dozens of community activists, labour allies, AWA and UFCW Canada members, staff, and officers, and volunteers joined the workers at the May 27 celebration, many of whom have helped make the centre a community beacon to the thousands of migrant and temporary workers who come to the Leamington area each season.
"I am proud and happy to be with you today for the 10th Anniversary of the very first AWA centre," said UFCW Canada National President Wayne Hanley, as he welcomed a crowd that filled the streets surrounding the centre. "The need for this centre and the other AWA centres across Canada is very evident when we see how many are here today, and the number of people who visit the centres every day throughout the season."
Founded in 2002, the Leamington AWA centre is the very first of what has now become a network of ten AWA centres across Canada. The four Ontario centres include Leamington, Simcoe, Virgil and Bradford. Since it opened, the Leamington centre has helped tens of thousands of workers with compensation claims, scheduling, pay issues, referral to legal counsel, health and safety training, CPP claims, unfair treatment, unsafe housing, and working conditions.
"The success of the centre is the direct result of the hard working staff here and at all of our centres," said Brother Hanley, who stood in front of a new mural that honours the enormous contributions that migrant agriculture workers make to the community. "Also, our thanks goes out to the Town of Leamington for those who have opened their hearts and hands to the agriculture workers. But the most important thanks is to you, the workers, for the job that you do, for putting food on the table of many Canadians, and for using the migrant workers' centres."
The celebration also included a community barbeque, live music, and a ribbon cutting to unveil the new mural and the next era of service to agriculture workers. "We got together as a group of people here, as a community, to help," said Stan Raper, the AWA's national coordinator. "This is a group that helped to open the first Canadian agriculture workers support centre in history. We hope to be here another ten years because we think there's still a lot of work to do."