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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mexican migrant workers leave union

According to the CBC:

Migrant Mexican farm workers in Manitoba – the first in Canada to join a union – have now voted to decertify.

The farm employees have decided they would rather not be part of the United Food and Commercial Workers union because they can make more money working longer hours, without mandatory overtime pay, which they say caused employers to cut back on their hours.

Heladio Martinez-Perez is a foreman at a farm west of Winnipeg. He said under the collective agreement the workers negotiated two years ago, they could not work more than 70 hours weekly.

"Today, we're gonna start at 6 o'clock and maybe finish at 8. That is a big difference, the union and not the union. We don't need overtime or $1 extra per hour when we can make more hours. That is a good thing for everybody."

Now that they've broken from the union, Martinez-Perez said many of his co-workers ask to work up to 15 or 16 hours a day.

This is a perfect example of the primary problem with the labour movement. This story does not say that unions are bad, it says that the almost religious conviction that unions are always good is bad. There are times that unions are good and there are times that they only interfere. The article goes on to quote promoters of unionism:

One expert said the decision to decertify is a setback for migrant workers. David Camfield, who teaches labour studies at the University of Manitoba, said migrant workers in Canada don't have the same rights as other workers who are not in agriculture.

Of course these workers have the same rights as other workers. They have the same protection of laws that every other worker does in Canada (or that every other foreign migrant worker has). What the professor means to say is that they don't have the same contract as other workers, and it is clear that they don't want this contract.

There is an assumption here that without a union these people are going to be abused by greedy capitalists, yet they do not seem dissatisfied with their pre-union working condition. In fact I have heard before that this type of employment is in high demand. It is easy to understand why:

"It's for my daughter's school," said Martinez-Perez. "That's the idea why we are here."

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on August 11, 2009 | Permalink


Unions had there place years ago when workers were exploited, now the tables are turned and the employers and taxpayers are the ones being exploited by the unions.

Posted by: Alberta Altruist | 2009-08-11 5:58:00 PM

Alberta Altruist, you are probably right that unions had their place. But I wonder if it is fact though. I hear many people say that before they say it no longer has its place. But I hav never seen an acurate history of unions to say it is true. In fact one stroy I read suggested unions started specifically to fight competition from "cottage" industries.

Posted by: TM | 2009-08-11 9:44:35 PM

I think your corrct on their origin, the mafia in the end from what I understand had control over this (teamsters) There was a time period where they did actually look out for the workers when they were being exploited but this was many years ago. Now they are back to controlling the business ans govt's much like the mafias in the past. Owners of businesses that the union has came in on no longer control them and are being taken over as GM and Air Canada. Legislation protects these unions unfortunately. The sad part is the union can fine members and take them to court with union money, I think that the union should be forced to also pay for the members defence as they are supposed to represent them. This would help those who do not agree with what the union is doing.

Posted by: Alberta Altruist | 2009-08-11 10:45:53 PM

That is interesting, and I agree. I find the idea of voluntary union membership interesting. The Mexicans could, in this case, easily then just cancel their membership.

Posted by: TM | 2009-08-12 12:44:26 AM

The quote from the professor may be taken out of context. Workers in agriculture actually don't have the same rights as workers in other areas. The only difference is that their employers do not have to pay overtime. So at least the prof is half-right. I still agree that unions are not always beneficial. I work construction right now and my union is useless. My co-workers and I actually think the union gets a kick-back from my employer for not doing anything. C'est la vie.

Posted by: Sam T | 2009-08-12 4:42:03 AM

"There was a time period where they did actually look out for the workers when they were being exploited but this was many years ago."

Indeed. When the laws were changed to give the unions unfair advantage over employers, everything changed. Unions were given a monopoly and market forces no longer functionned to keep them on the "straight and narrow".

Posted by: Charles | 2009-08-12 5:18:37 AM

Unions are by nature controlling, expensive and less productive as they "work to rule". To say they protect workers from greedy capitalists is also erroneous. We've never seen an economy where "greedy capitalists" were able to operate without government coercion / cooperation.
And to limit the hours these folks want to work is also very "controlling". The idea that limiting their hours but paying them overtime is a non starter. Most folks I know, union and non union don't want to work overtime because they get raped on taxes anyway...so what's the point?
Between unions and government as we know it, productivity and innovation have been nearly erased. God forbid anything should happen out there that isn't manipulated somehow. If the world weren't like that we might have happy productive, affluent people. Leviathan hates that.

Posted by: The original JC | 2009-08-12 6:52:19 AM

People like Camfield have absolutely no idea of the situation, needs and desires of the Mexican workers. In fact they care nothing about them. They only care about pushing their ideology at the expense of workers' needs.

For any given situation one can always count on the media trotting out some professor, so-called expert, of the field in question. If it is about a horrible crime, then expect some professor of criminology. Since none of them have any real life experience in the area, they should be ignored.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-08-12 11:28:16 AM

Well said JC

Posted by: Alberta Altruist | 2009-08-12 11:38:41 AM

During the 30's and 40's most US unions became fronts for communist organizations who found them a convenient way to establish a base because they were already there

Posted by: Floyd Looney | 2009-08-12 3:55:26 PM

Floyd, it was not only in the United States. It was the same in the UK and Western Europe. Recall how they were opposed to WW II until the Soviets entered the war.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-08-12 8:15:55 PM

What Manitoba really needs is mass Mexican immigration. Otherwise nobody else in that province will get up on their hind legs to cut the union legs out from the NDP...who will of course be cutting back on the number of Mexicans that get into the province. Oh, wait -- hasn't "Conservative" MP Jason Kenney alreay seen to that? ;-)

Posted by: JC | 2009-08-13 12:53:15 AM

I am voluntarily withdrawing from my trade union. As a female in a male dominated trade and belonging to a union that allows and even encourages it's male members to bully, harrass, sexually harrass female members in good standing then it is time to withdraw from that organization, and see it for what it is -CORRUPT. To keep myself untainted by this corruption I shall leave of my own accord and from hereon in shall take every opportunity to expose the corruption within this trade union. If the oil and gas company knew how little work was actually done and what they were billed for on an ongoing basis then they themselves may rid themselves of all unionized workers and join open shop in hoards.

Posted by: D.M.K. | 2009-11-10 12:51:22 AM

Unionized workers are a blight and the "unions" they belong to need to be erradicated. What unions don't tell people is that they themselves have large numbers of immigrants, probabably because they really can't attract real men from Canada.

Posted by: D.M.K. | 2009-11-10 12:56:58 AM

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