New book examines human rights struggle of Ontario agriculture workers

Book released on struggle of Ontario agriculture workers

On April 12, UFCW Canada activists attended the Toronto book launch of Constitutional Labour Rights in Canada: Farm Workers and the Fraser Case, edited by lawyer Fay Faraday and professors Eric Tucker and Judy Fudge. The book is a collection of essays that chronicle the two stories underlying the Supreme Court's historic Attorney General of Ontario vs. Fraser decision: UFCW Canada's decades-long campaign to secure equal labour rights for agriculture workers in Ontario; and the court's cynical ruling on the Charter's guarantee of Freedom of Association when it comes to collective bargaining.

“This book centres on the most vulnerable workers in Canada," Derek Fudge told the launch audience. Brother Fudge serves on the secretariat of NUPGE's Canadian Foundation for Labour Rights, the driving force behind the publication. "Agriculture workers toil under extremely hard conditions, for low pay, and in Ontario they are denied the basic human right to join a union," he said. "This is the story about their struggle to obtain collective bargaining rights, and having those freedoms denied to them by the Supreme Court."

In analyzing the way in which the Canadian courts treat labour rights, the book shows that citizens and activists must promote labour rights as human rights, since we cannot count on our judicial system to protect these freedoms.

During the event, Faraday, Tucker, and Fudge thanked UFCW Canada for its decades of commitment and energy in helping agriculture workers organize. "If it wasn't for UFCW Canada and the Agriculture Workers Alliance, agriculture workers would have even less than what they have today," said Brother Fudge.

The book contains contributions from lawyers and academics, as well as a frank and close-up historical essay by UFCW Canada National President Wayne Hanley. Brother Hanley's chapter discusses the roots of organizing agriculture workers, the community building efforts of the workers and UFCW Canada, and the best way for organizers and farm workers to proceed moving forward. It emphasizes that the union has long fought for agriculture workers and will continue to do so despite the tragic Fraser decision. "Ultimately the rights of Ontario farm workers will require political action; the election of governments and leaders not tied to corporate interests, and who understand that workers' rights are human rights," Brother Hanley notes in his conclusion.  

Constitutional Labour Rights in Canada: Farm Workers and the Fraser Case is published by Irwin Law and available for purchase online. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Migrant Workers Family Support Fund forthe families of those killed and injured in a collision near Hampstead, Ontario. To find out more about the struggle for agriculture workers' rights in Canada, and how you can get involved, please visit the Agriculture Workers Alliance website here.