Mexican farmworkers sent home from B.C. after organizing union vote

Posted by admin on Sep 16th, 2008

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 CBC News

Union officials are outraged after a group of migrant farmworkers who were harvesting vegetables in Abbotsford were sent back to Mexico after filing papers to unionize. United Food and Commercial Workers Canada alleges Floralia Plant Growers in Abbotsford put 14 migrant workers on a plane back home the day after the owners found out about their plans to join the union.

Problems started when 29 workers at Floralia Plant Growers filed an application to unionize, according to UFCWC organizer Lucy Luna.

The men were scheduled to vote to certify the union on Monday, and their contract with the farm was supposed to run until October, but Luna was shocked when the men called her from Mexico instead, she told CBC News.

“The application was put in on September fourth. The workers were notified late Friday night, which is September the fifth, that they were leaving on Saturday at 1 p.m. … that fast,” said Luna.

B.C.’s Labour Relations Board is looking into whether the farm violated the province’s Labour Code by sending the workers back before they could vote. The case is expected to be heard at a hearing scheduled for later this week.

The president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, Jim Sinclair, said those working in B.C.’s agricultural industry on seasonal work visas deserve more rights.

“People live in fear out there that their employer will find out that they are going to stand up for their rights,” said Sinclair.

Floralia Plant Growers did not return calls for comment from CBC.

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