COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire among migrant farm workers with temporary immigration status, who are housed by their employers in unsanitary, overcrowded conditions and work without access to any paid sick days or protective equipment.
Over two hundred and eighty have now tested positive, several are hospitalized, and one migrant worker from Mexico -- 31 year old Bonifacio Eugenio Romero -- has died.
Health experts have been clear about the source of the infections: "any 'suspicion that it might have been brought from elsewhere is absolutely not true in this situation,' said Dr. Mustafa Hirji, acting medical officer of health for the Niagara region. 'We believe this is infection that was acquired through people's interaction within the community. … Living in close quarters and difficulty maintaining physical distancing at work may have been factors."
These workers – most of whom come from Jamaica and Mexico – are not only paid poorly for highly-skilled and difficult work, but are also held down by temporary work permits tied to their employer: where speaking up against unsafe working conditions means getting deported.
Migrant workers are essential workers, not expendable bodies. It is their labour that fuels the very food chain upon which we all depend, from fields and factories to grocery stores. Yet from one end of the country to the other, whether it’s meat-processing plants in Alberta or farms in Ontario, there has been a complete failure to provide safe work and decent living conditions.
But we can change all this - and protect each other - if we raise our voices together. The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change is calling for three simple demands from Ontario to contain and mitigate the crisis:
- Suspend work at COVID-19 farms.
- Ensure income for all.
- Ensure proper health & safety.
Will you speak up to protect everyone’s health? We need immediate action to contain the outbreak and prevent more people from getting infected, or worse.
Call your Member of Provincial Parliament NOW!
Click to see tips and find their number.
The fact we are having to sound the alarm to ensure some basic level of dignity for migrant farm workers, speaks to the depth of racism that forms the very foundation of Canada’s unfair immigration programs and labour market.
For too long, systemic racism has forced workers of colour into the most dangerous jobs with low pay, inadequate hours, and few benefits. This is a pandemic that has been hurting Black, Indigenous and workers of color with deadly consequences, way before COVID-19. Black and Brown bodies are NOT less deserving and more expendable than white bodies. Justice demands equal treatment for all. That’s why the Fight for $15 and Fairness is proud to join with the Migrant Rights Network to demand full citizenship status for all migrant workers. Join the day of action on June 14, click here to register and learn more.
None of us can be free until all of us are. Join us.