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Migrant farm workers at Fyffes’ Highline Mushrooms apply to join United Food and Commercial Workers

UFCW Canada
UFCW Canada

ABBOTSFORD, British Columbia, June 12, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Agricultural workers at four Highline Mushrooms factory farms in British Columbia have applied to join United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Canada. Highline Mushrooms is one of Canada’s biggest mushroom producers and is owned by transnational agrifood giant Fyffes.

The victory reflects Highline Mushroom workers’ drive and determination to improve their working conditions, representing the first group of migrant agricultural workers in Canada to collectively exercise their fundamental right to join a union in many years.

Agricultural workers are some of the most vulnerable workers in Canada, unprotected while working for transnational agrifood conglomerates worth billions. The Canadian mushroom industry alone earns over $650 million annually with over 250 mushroom farms, employing more than 5,000 agricultural workers. The mushroom industry is built on the labour of the migrant agricultural workers who staff the farms, working long, grueling hours, being paid by the piece or making barely over minimum wage. The victory at Highline Mushrooms farms is a major step forward to changing the industry, as workers assert their rights and demand that their voices are heard.

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“We want to join the union because we want fairer treatment, support in case of accidents at work, stable schedules, safe housing, and recall rights. We want to have a voice,” says Karen, union activist, “We want a workplace free of dangers, with fair treatment and job stability.”

The key concerns for the workers at Highline Mushrooms are improving health and safety, ensuring a safe and fair work environment, being treated with dignity and respect, and the ability to bargain collectively.

“Congratulations to Highline Mushrooms workers for their courage and determination in asserting their rights,” says Patrick Johnson, President of UFCW 1518. “We are excited about the possibly to represent these workers and improve their lives by negotiating a strong union contract.”

In exercising their labour rights, the workers at Fyffes’ Highline Mushrooms have the support of the local, national and international union standing behind them.

“For the past three decades UFCW has been the leading force in helping migrant workers exercise their fundamental rights,” says Shawn Haggerty, National President of UFCW Canada. “Labour rights are human rights, and we will be proud to welcome Fyffes’ mushroom workers into our UFCW family.”

Highline Mushrooms’ parent company Fyffes has pledged to defend human and labour rights in its business principles, including core promises about respecting the fundamental labour rights of workers based on freedom of association as defined by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

This victory by the workers at Highline Mushrooms will also be a victory for the worldwide food workers’ movement. Committed to helping workers empower themselves, UFCW Canada works closely with the International Union of Food International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF) to connect Highline Mushrooms workers with other Fyffes workers in countries around the world to build global solidarity.

“This victory in Canada provides inspiration to migrant food workers throughout the world, who are the backbone of the global agrifood industry,” says Sue Longley, General Secretary of the IUF. “Fyffes has made strong commitments through their global policies about fully respecting their workers’ right to freedom of association and collective bargaining, and we trust that they will honour these principles. The world, and the global food workers’ movement, is watching.”

About

UFCW Canada (the United Food and Commercial Workers Union) represents more than 255,000 members across Canada working in every sector of the food industry from field to table. For 30 years, UFCW Canada has been the leading voice and advocate for domestic and migrant agricultural workers.

Contact

Derek Johnstone, UFCW Canada
Phone: 416-679-3417
Email: derek.johnstone@ufcw.ca