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Canadian Farmworkers Union Chronology 1978 to 1997

 

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This timeline of key events in the history of the Canadian Farmworkers Union (CFU), and its predecessor the Farmworkers Organizing Committee (FWOC), is footnoted with links to select documents in the CFU archive collection at the Simon Fraser University Library’s Special Collection.

For additional documents or photos related to a specific event – please search this CFU collection by subject or date.

This chronological guide, edited by Craig Berggold, is primarily sourced from the annual CFU convention executive reports submitted to farmworker delegates and the CFU’s newspaper The FarmWorker.

For a summary of the early 1980’s British Columbia agricultural industry and organizing farm workers by crops, see the document “An Overview of Organizing Potentials for the CFU – A Report to the CFU National Executive, Sept. 1983” by David Lane, CFU Researcher.

 

 
 

 

1970s

 

  

1978

1978, September – Thirty farmworkers meet in a Surrey school to discuss how to improve farmworkers’ living and working conditions in the Fraser Valley, BC.

[Farworkers ESL Crusade 1986: Tutor Manual, "First Farmworker Union Has Tought Job Ahead, Page 15]

 

1979

1979, Feb 26 – The Farmworkers Organizing Committee (FWOC) is established at a meeting in a room in the New Westminster library. Eight people are present including: Raj Chouhan, Harinder Mahil, Sarwan Sidhu, Pritam Singh, Amarit Pal Mann, Gurnam Sahota. “The main objective for the FWOC was to expose the conditions of farm work for seasonal workers in the Fraser Valley. The approach was to work with farmworkers, to lobby the government and to undertake public education.” Membership fee is $2 and in the first year achieved 700 members. [EPH0108-015] --changed to [1983 CFU Report-Draft2, Page 14] [1980 - The Birth of the Farm Workers Organizing Committee ] [Farm Workers Organizing Committee Founding Meeting - Wangar Vol.3 No.1 ]

1979, April 08 – The FWOC’s first public meeting at the Carpenters Hall, New Westminster, BC. [India Now Vol.2 No.5/6 - BC Farmworkers Move Forward ] [Canadian Farmworkers Union Public Meeting - Speech by CFU President Raj Chouhan ]

1979, May 13 – The FWOC’s second public meeting in Mission, BC. [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 15]

1979, June 09 – The FWOC’s third public meeting and first Vancouver meeting at David Thompson Secondary School. Speakers included: FWOC President Raj Chouhan; International Woodworkers of America (IWA) Regional Council President Jack Munro; Chairperson of Labour Advocacy and Research Association Ujjal Dosanjh. [Farm Workers Organizing Committee : Farmworkers' Conference ] [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 15]

1979, July 17 – The FWOC mobilizes its first direct action picket line with more than 200 farmworkers at Mukhtiar Growers Ltd in Clearbrook, BC. The workers had not been paid their back wages for six weeks and refused to go to work unless they received their back wages. National President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) Jean-Claude Parrot attends the picket line in solidarity. “Contacted by some farmworkers who convinced others to stay out and with the support of FWOC members, Mukhtiar paid $80,000 in wages on the spot,” after several hours of negotiations with the FWOC. Workers returned to work after the FWOC distributed their cheques on the picket line. The FWOC’s first major victory was reported in local TV and mainstream press. [FarmWorker 1979 Vol. 01 No. 01 ] [Support BC farm workers ]

1979, Aug 03 – The Farmworkers Organizing Committee publishes the first Canadian farmworkers’ newspaper. Farm Worker is a bilingual paper with Punjabi front side (8-pages) and English backside (4-pages). The lead headline is Farmworkers First Major Victory - Farmer Had To Pay $80,000 at Mukhtiar Growers. Additional stories include: a press release supporting Vietnamese refugee boat people immigrating to Canada but not as 'bonded labour' by sponsoring Fraser Valley farmers; United Farm Workers of America AFL-CIO (UFW) campaign to Boycott Chiquitta bananas. Reprinted support letters from: UFW President Cesar Chavez; BC Government Employees Union (BCGEU); and BC Provincial Council of Carpenters. [FarmWorker 1979 Vol. 01 No. 01]

1979, Aug 04 – The FWOC’s fourth public meeting, at the Abbotsford Airport Hall, is a victory celebration for those farmworkers who received $80,000 in back pay from Mukhtiar Growers. [FarmWorker 1979 Vol. 01 No. 01, "From the Mail Bag", Page4 ]

1979, Aug 25 – About 100 members of FWOC march more than three miles by the fields in Clearbrook, along Huntington Road. “This march was held at a time when certain farmers had threatened the committee and its members with violence.” Many more farmworkers left the fields to join the march. The rally ended at cabin living quarters where additional farmworkers joined to hear speeches by FWOC President Raj Chouhan. “Our purpose was to show the farmers and contractors that we will not be intimidated.” [Farmworker 1980 Vol. 01 No. 02, Page 3]

1979, Sept 05 - McKara Blueberry Farms, Richmond, “organizers going into fields to sign FWOC members.” [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 15]

1979, October – The FWOC sets up a “picket line at McKim Farm in Richmond for unpaid wages.” The case is taken up, voluntarily, by BC Law Union lawyer Stuart Rush and eventually won at the BC Supreme Court. But the workers were unable to secure their wages as “McKim declared bankruptcy and had too many other liens.”[1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 16 ]

1979, Nov 03 – Beginning in July, the FWOC mounted a petition campaign collecting 10,000 signatures that “were presented to Premier Bill Bennett during a demonstration which marched on the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Vancouver, BC. Demands were for equality in legislation” to end discrimination of farmworkers in BC’s provincial Labour Standards Legislation, Workers Compensation Act, and the federal Unemployment Insurance Regulations. [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 16 ]

1979, Dec – The FWOC-Ontario Support Committee (OSC) is formed. [Ontario - Canadian Farmworkers Union, Page 2]

 

1980s

 

1980 | 1981 | 1982 | 1983 | 1984 | 1985 | 1986 | 1987 | 1988 | 1989

  

1980

During the fall and winter of 1979-80, the FWOC began internal discussions about transforming their committee into a trade union. In a jointly written CFU report, by Judy Cavanagh, Sarwan Boal and Raj Chouhan, they explained their rationale: “From the success of the Mukhtiar action, farmworkers started wanting contracts. FWOC could not organize and enforce contracts as a committee with the same weight as a union so a decision was made to transform to union status. The BC Law Union (with lawyer Stuart Rush) assisted the FWOC in drafting a union constitution.” [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 17]

1980 – The BC Organization To Fight Racism (BCOFR) publishes a brochure Ban the Klan, Join Hands For Human Rights and Dignity. “Vancouver Klu Klux Klan sends in recruiters. Distributes literature at High Schools and at BCIT. Racist attacks against East Indians and other ethnic communities growing.” The BCOFR was a broad-based multicultural organization, including representatives from BC First Nations, Filipino and Indo-Canadian communities. The BCOFR was started by many of the same organizers who founded the FWOC and CFU. For example, BCOFR’s first President Charan Gill is also a founder of the CFU. Raj Chouhan was a founding member of both BCOFR and CFU President. [CFU 1st National Convention Documents; including, The First Year - National Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1980 - April 1981; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions; CFU National Constitution as presented at the Founding Convention April 6, 1980; Convention Minutes, "Join Hands for Human Rights and Dignity--Ban the Klan", Page 119]

1980, February – The FWOC begins “negotiations with Driediger Farms for a voluntary agreement for seasonal workers. When it came time for signing, April 13, 1980, Driediger withdraws saying he is a free enterpriser. CFU responds with a demonstration at his (strawberry) farm on June 29, 1980.” [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 16]

1980, Feb 22 – “Farmworkers in British Columbia are presently subjected to the most blatant economic injustice.” During the winter of 1979, BC Law Union members, Calvin Sandborn, Marilyn Kansky and Carolyn McCool draft a brief which the FWOC presents to the BC Labour Standards Branch pointing out the exclusion of farmworkers from the most basic provincial labour standards legislation. The brief calls for the abolition of the labour contracting system, where middlemen provide transportation to farmworkers and take one-third of the farmworkers wages. The brief recommends minimum wage protection, toilets and clean drinking water in the fields, and health and safety regulations in farm work - the third most dangerous occupation in the province; also, coverage by the Maternity Protection Act. On July 9, 1980, the BC government announced a new provincial Employment Standards Act which included farmworkers. However, farmworkers were still excluded from provincial health and safety regulations and many employment standards like minimum wage, hours of work and overtime.) [Farm Workers Organizing Committee : Concerning Legislative Recommendations on Matters that Affect BC Farm Workers ] [Farm Workers Organizing Committee Meeting with Labour Standards Branch - Press Release] [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 17] [Farmworker 1980 Vol. 01 No. 02, Page 3]

1980, April 06 – The CFU holds its Founding Convention at Douglas College and delegates elect FWOC President Raj Chouhan as CFU president. The “Canadian Farmworkers Union was founded in New Westminster, British Columbia. This is the first union in Canada's history formed to improve the working conditions of workers in the agricultural industry. The Union's formation was the result of one year of intensive work by the Farmworkers Organizing Committee (FWOC) which started February 26, 1979.” [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 4] [Canadian Farmworkers Union National Constitution 1980 as presented and adopted at the Founding Convention] [Canadian Farmworkers Union National Constitution 1980] [Canadian Farmworkers Union National Constitution - Draft 1980 ] [1980 Press Release - Canadian Farmworkers Union is Canada's newest trade union]

1980, April - The Farmworker (Vol.1 No.2) is the CFU’s bilingual newspaper and is released after the convention. Headlines include: Farmworkers’ Union Founded; BCGEU gives $10,000 to CFU. The editor is Charan Gill. [Farmworker 1980 Vol. 01 No. 02]

1980, April 16 – The CFU’s Vice-President Jawala Singh Grewal house is violently attacked. “Attempts are being made to stop workers from joining the union.”

[Raj Chouhan's Speech at the Telecommunications Workers Union Convention, Page 2]

1980, April 26 – The Founding of Canadian Farmworkers Union public celebration is attended by 550 people and hear legendary guest speaker United Farmworkers of America (UFW) President Cesar Chavez —on the first of his many CFU solidarity trips to Vancouver. Other guest speakers include: BC Government Employees’ Union (BCGEU) General Secretary John Fryer; Dr. Setty Pendakur, a well-known leader of East Indian community; and a speaker from the Chinese community. The CFU celebration is held at David Thompson Secondary School, Vancouver. [Canadian Farmworkers Union Founding Public Celebration April 26, 1980] [Canadian Farmworkers Union Founding Public Celebration April 26, 1980. - Invitation to Media] [Farmworker 1980 Vol. 03 ] [Canadian Farmworkers Union Founding Public Celebration - Speech by Raj Chouhan] [India Now Vol.3 No.5 - Canadian Farmworkers Union Formed]

1980, May – The CFU-Ontario Support Committee holds meetings with the United Farmworkers of America representatives in Toronto. [Ontario - Canadian Farmworkers Union, Page 2]

1980, May – A farmworker dies in Abbotsford when a raspberry machine falls on him. In another 1980 incident (specific date unclear): “A man died as a result of a tractor accident.” [CFU 1st National Convention Documents; including, The First Year - National Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1980 - April 1981; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions; CFU National Constitution as presented at the Founding Convention April 6, 1980; Convention Minutes, Page11]

1980, May 31 – The CFU demands that farmworkers be included in basic federal and provincial labour laws at a public meeting in Surrey, at LA Matheson Junior Secondary School. “On Feb 22, 1980, the FWOC presented a brief to the BC Ministry of Labour. On Feb 29 the BC Social Credit government’s throne speech promises changes in the Labour Standards Legislation to include farmworkers. On May 15 the Domestic Workers Association presented a brief… to also be included in the upcoming changes. Its almost June and NOTHING HAS BEEN DONE. The CFU wants action NOT LIP-SERVICE.”

[Canadian Farmworkers Union Public Meeting - Speech by CFU President Raj Chouhan] [Canadian Farmworkers Union Public Meeting ] [Canadian Farmworkers Union Public Meeting - Press Invitation ]

1980, June – The new CFU has 515 members by June. “In early May, teams made up of 30 people were established. They covered Mission, Abbotsford, Surrey, Vancouver, Port Alberni, Okanagan and New Westminster. Teams would visit one family and get contacts and without making prior arrangements would go door-to-door to sign up new members. The response was enthusiastic, farmworkers… had no understanding of how a union was built but, they thought everything would change overnight.”… “The house meetings were very effective as the whole family became involved. And, at public meetings they would all attend. Thus, there was a high participation of women.” By the end of 1980 there were 1000 members signed up. But only about 139 members paid the $5.00 initiation fee. “The collection of dues was not considered important. An emphasis was placed upon establishing CFU’s presence in the farms and in the wider community. Methods implemented were house meetings involving the whole family, public meetings, job actions, and presentations to unions and community groups. Another goal was the total exposure of the labour contract system.” Confrontations took place with some labour contractors while organizers walked onto farms to check conditions and inaccurate scales… “Some teams were threatened with guns at Mukhtiar Farms.” [A Message to Union Members - Canadian Farmworkers Union] [Canadian Farmworkers Union - To All New Members ] [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 16-21]

1980, June 29 – The CFU marches to the strawberry fields at Driediger Farms, Langley, to protest the grower’s withdrawal from voluntary negotiations. “Driediger's Farms negotiated with the Canadian Farmworkers Union for well over two months. Terms of the collective agreement between the Union and the employer were finalized on April 13, 1980. The agreement was to be signed during the week of April 21-25, 1980. The grower backed out at the last minute saying he is a ‘Free Enterpriser’ and doesn't believe in unions. The CFU later found out that while Driediger was negotiating terms of a collective agreement with the Union, he was also negotiating with the (labour) contractors. Rather than negotiate in good faith, he was gathering information on the Union for the BC Federation of Agriculture. WHAT DO WE WANT? Driediger sign a negotiated agreement with the Union. Minimum of $4.00 per hour. Minimum of $3.00 per flat (for a 16 lb. flat). An end to exploitation of farmworkers. IS THIS TOO MUCH TO ASK?” [Driediger Farms : We are here because…Driediger signed a negotiated agreement with the Union ] [Driediger Farms : CFU Invitation to Join Information Picket Line ]

1980, July 9 – The BC provincial government announces a new provincial Employment Standards Act that includes farmworkers. “However farmworkers were still excluded from health and safety regulations and many employment standards like minimum wage, hours of work and overtime.” [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 17]

1980, July 12 – The CFU rallies 200 people, marching four kilometers past the farm fields of Clearbrook, BC, demanding an end to the farm labour contract system used to hire farmworkers. “Many workers came out of the fields to join their brothers and sisters.” A CFU leaflet reads, Support BC Farmworkers March against the Labour Contract System: Contractors Live off the labour of Farmworkers; Contractors Take 25-40% of Farmworkers wages; Contractors Grow fat by posing as Farmworkers benefactors; Eliminate the Labour Contract System Rally Hugh Park Clearbrook.

[March Against the Labour Contract System - Support BC Farmworkers] [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 19] [March and Rally against Archaic Labour Contract System ] [March and Rally against Archaic Labour Contract System - Media Announcement ]

1980, July 13 – “Farmworker Pritam Kaur Hayre was fired from Sabaloy's Farm for her participation in the Clearbrook march and rally the day before. Four CFU reps confront the grower. She is reinstated.” [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 19] [Farmworkers Need Your Support, Page 1 ]

1980, July 16 – In Matsqui, a seven-month-old baby girl, Sukhdeep Madhar, rolls off a cot and drowns in a bucket of drinking water in a horse stall used as a cabin. An inquest took place over this tragic incident. The CFU demanded childcare for farmworkers’ children. On August 21st, a coroner's jury recognized the horror of the living conditions and recommended that farmworkers’ cabins “be investigated and upgraded so an incident of this nature is less likely to happen in the future."… “All known agricultural work camps should immediately be inspected by civic fire, health and building officials …”. [Jury Raps Farmworkers' Living Conditions ] [CFU 1st National Convention Documents; including, The First Year - National Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1980 - April 1981; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions; CFU National Constitution as presented at the Founding Convention April 6, 1980; Convention Minutes, Page 10] [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 19] [Farmworker 1980 Vol. 03 ]

1980, July 18 – The BC Labour Relations Board (LRB) grants the CFU their first union certification as the workers’ bargaining agent at Jensen Mushroom Farm Ltd, Langley, in the Fraser Valley. In April, workers at this year-round farm had approached the CFU and an organizing drive started within two weeks. On May 30, the CFU applied for union certification with a strong majority. After a secret ballot, and a lengthy LRB hearing, certification was granted and first contract negotiations began in late August. The workforce was comprised of South Asian women pickers and European farm workers. [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 9] [Jensen Mushroom Farm : Labour Relations Board of BC, Labour Code of British Columbia Application for Certification at Jensen Mushroom Farm Ltd] [Jensen Mushroom Farms Ltd and Canadian Farmworkers Union Local No.1 - Letter of Complaint] [Jensen Mushroom Farms Ltd and Canadian Farmworkers Union Local No.1 (Application for Certification)] [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 54-65] [Jensen Mushroom Farm : For Immediate Release - CFU First Certification]

1980, July 18 – CFU organizer Sarwan Boal is attacked by racist thugs in East Vancouver after leaving celebrations for the CFU’s first certification. The attackers kicked his head repeatedly as Sarwan lay unconscious while shouting “F***ing East Indian”. Three Jensen Mushroom Farm workers came to his rescue when they left the evening event. Sarwan recovered in hospital. [Farmworker 1980 Vol. 03, Page 3]

1980, July 22 – The CFU is granted certification as the bargaining agents for the alfalfa sprout workers at Country Farm Natural Foods Ltd, in Richmond, BC. “Two workers approached CFU in May 1980. The grower did not protest the organizing drive and certification for 10 workers granted. The farm produced alfalfa sprouts.” [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 9] [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 60-62]

1980, July 25 – In Langley, “three young boys, Sumandeep, Gurjeet, and Boota, aged

seven to eleven drowned in a gravel pit in Langley, BC, while their parents were picking berries in a nearby field. The Crown charged the Municipality of Langley and the Motorcycle Association which leased the land with three counts of manslaughter.” A CFU lawyer has launched a civil suit on behalf of the family. “The Motorcycle Association was found guilty, the family sued for damages and was awarded $30,000. Charges were dropped against the Municipality of Langley.” [CFU 1st National Convention Documents; including, The First Year - National Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1980 - April 1981; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions; CFU National Constitution as presented at the Founding Convention April 6, 1980; Convention Minutes, Page 11] [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 20]

1980, August 18 – The CFU begins first contract negotiations with alfalfa sprout producer Country Farm Natural Foods Ltd, Richmond. Also, in late August, the CFU begins nine months of negotiations for a first contract at Jensen Mushroom Farm, Langley. On March 20, 1981, Country Farm Natural Food workers vote to reject the grower’s proposals after seven months of negotiations. Four weeks later, on April 18, the CFU alfalfa sprout workers strike and set up a picket line at Country Farm Natural Foods in Richmond, BC. [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 54] [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 9]

1980, Aug 24 – Following the “tragic deaths of an infant (Sukhdeep Madhar) and three children (Sumandeep, Gurjeet, and Boota ) as a direct result of terrible living conditions and the absence of day-care,” 250 farmworkers attend a CFU public meeting focusing on health and safety conditions, at the Abbotsford Royal Canadian Legion Hall. “Farmwork is the third most dangerous of all occupations. Farmworkers have no protection what so ever from any pesticides being used in the fields. Workers, who, while working ten years ago in fields, acquired rashes or other skin diseases still have those problems. Farmworkers have long been excluded from Workers' Compensation schemes. But, the Government has not only been negligent in this area - day care is another area. Four children died in July, due to lack of day care facilities. We have told the Government time and time again to take action because we feared deaths would happen -but they have done nothing. These and many more problems amount to appalling health and safety working conditions. Join us at this public meeting to discuss these problems.” Speakers included IWA Safety Director Verna Ledger and farmworkers. [Health & Safety Public Meeting ] [Health & Safety Public Meeting - 250 Attend]

[CFU 1st National Convention Documents; including, The First Year - National Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1980 - April 1981; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions; CFU National Constitution as presented at the Founding Convention April 6, 1980; Convention Minutes, Page 9] [Health & Safety Public Meeting - Speech by Raj Chouhan] [Health & Safety Public Meeting - Verna Ledger, IWA Director, Safety and Health - Speech]

1980, Aug 24 – Farmworker Hamil “Grewal died in Abbotsford at the age of 34, shortly after spraying parathion - the biggest killer of all pesticides - the authorities failed to take the elementary step of taking sufficient body samples to determine whether or not parathion had caused the death. Farmworkers cannot afford further government indifference and bungling. The Workers' Compensation Board must act now to protect us and our children – and consumers. Consumers should remember that, according to the Royal Commission on Pesticides, 3.4% of all our food has illegal pesticide residues on it. The regulations we seek should cut down on that frightening figure also,” Raj Chouhan concluded. “In this case, the Coroner refused to call an inquest. He stated that he had asked a pathologist to analyse tissue but refused to release the report to CFU's lawyer.” [Pesticide Organo-phosphate poisoning of seasonal farm workers ] [CFU 1st National Convention Documents; including, The First Year - National Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1980 - April 1981; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions; CFU National Constitution as presented at the Founding Convention April 6, 1980; Convention Minutes, Page 11]

1980, September – The CFU publishes The Farmworker (No.3) newspaper in three languages (Punjabi, English, French). Headlines include: CFU on the move–2 certifications won; Jury raps living conditions; CUPE contributes $10,000 to CFU; Phoney union trying to sabotage CFU organizing; Racist attack on union organizer. [Farmworker 1980 Vol. 03 ]

1980, Sept 03 – After a workers’ secret vote, the CFU is granted certification as the bargaining agent for the cranberry workers at Bell Farms Ltd, Richmond. “Workers approached CFU in August 1980. The grower did not protest the organizing drive and certification was granted” for 10 full-time workers and 30 seasonal employees. Less than three months later, on November 18, Bell Farms agreed to the first collective agreement signed by a union representing farmworkers in Canada. “Bell Farms is a cranberry producer which markets its berries through Ocean Spray.” [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 9] [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 63-64] [Bell Farms Certification - Canadian Farmworkers Union Local 1 ]

1980, Sept 09 – In Surrey, Forssell’s Greenhouse farmworkers meet to discuss organizing a union. “The CFU was contacted, in late August 1980, after 5 workers were laid off with no regard to seniority. They became the backbone of the ‘outside’ organizing team. There was also an inside team established. The drive continued at a high pitch for 2 1/2 weeks at which time an application for certification was made (51%). Meetings continued with the crew – one public meeting was held to attempt to reach the intransigent but to no avail. House meetings continued. A vote was ordered (on Oct 17), CFU lost by 3 votes 51/48. (Actual vote was 44/39.) The employer hired a management consultant who promptly implemented employee contracts with many of the changes that would have occurred with a union present.” [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 67-69] [Forssell's Greenhouses - Canadian Farmworkers Union Worker's Meeting] [Forssell's Greenhouses - Canadian Farmworkers Union Local No.1 To Workers] [Forssell's Greenhouses - Why Join A Union? and Your Right To Join A Union Is Protected By Law ] [Forssell's Greenhouses - Return of Poll ]

1980, Sept 14 – The Port Alberni Farmworkers Support Committee presents a Support BC Farmworkers event with speaker CFU President Raj Chouhan and the Taken for Granted slide/tape show, at IWA Hall, in Montrose, Vancouver Island. [Support BC Farmworkers]

1980, Oct 12 – The CFU Secretary-Treasurer Sarwan Boal undertakes a month of investigative organizing in the Okanagan with two Quebecois fruit pickers, Anne-Marie Brun and Mario Lanthier. Together they organize the first CFU Okanagan public meeting attended by 120 workers at the Royal Canadian Legion Hall, Penticton. [CFU 1st National Convention Documents; including, The First Year - National Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1980 - April 1981; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions; CFU National Constitution as presented at the Founding Convention April 6, 1980; Convention Minutes, Page 8] [Support Canadian Farmworkers Union ] [Okanagan fruit pickers working conditions - Public Meeting ] [Support Canadian Farmworkers Union]

1980, October 17 – At Forssell's Greenhouses, Surrey, the CFU loses a very close certification vote, 44 against to 39 for the union. This was the CFU’s first defeat in their drive to represent workers as their bargaining agent. “An error CFU may have made was in determining the size of the unit. CFU included all workers but, there may have been a case for the exclusion of office workers and long-distance truck drivers. There were also maintenance workers who identified more with their own trade than a farmworkers union. The Union is confident that the grower would have applied for no exclusions. Some maintenance, office and long-distance drivers signed union cards.” [Forssell's Greenhouses - Return of Poll ] [Forssell's Greenhouses - A Secret Ballot Vote Leaflet ] [Forrssell's Greenhouses - Membership Meeting Workers ] [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 67-69]

1980, Nov 18 – The “CFU Local No.1 signed its first collective agreement with Bell Farms Ltd of Richmond… This is the first collective agreement ever signed by a union representing farmworkers in Canada.” The two-year agreement covered 12 regular workers, plus at harvest an additional 20 to 30 seasonal workers who had been hired through a labour contractor, on the 200 acre cranberry farm. “The agreement is a major breakthrough for seasonal farmworkers as it provides an end to the labour contract system at this farm. The agreement provides that no worker shall be hired through a labour contractor. When additional workers are required they will be hired through the union hiring hall.” As of January, 1981, field workers will be paid an hourly rate of $6.67, and in 1982/$7.67. Seasonal workers in 1981/$5.80, and in 1982/$6.67. Mechanics in 1981/$7.10, and in 1982/$8.16. The contract also included workers compensation benefit payments, and premiums for health benefits. “There were very few problems at this farm. The workforce were strong union supporters. The employer, Jack Bell, was experienced in dealing with unions and was willing to discuss ways to find solutions to problems. The major problem the union had was with the hiring hall dispatch system.” [1980-1982 Collective Agreement between Bell Farms Ltd and Canadian Farmworkers Union Local 1 ] [CFU 1st National Convention Documents; including, The First Year - National Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1980 - April 1981; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions; CFU National Constitution as presented at the Founding Convention April 6, 1980; Convention Minutes, Page 7] [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 28-29] [Ontario - Canadian Farmworkers Union, Page 29] [Bulletin - CFU Signs First Agreement ]

The second collective agreement between CFU and Bell Farms was signed in December 1982 covering two more years. However, shortly after, in February 1983, Bell Farms was sold into three parcels of land to other cranberry growers. The CFU applied for ‘successor status’ at all these new farms, but lost part of the successorship in a decision at the BC Labour Relations Board on September 9, 1983. [CFU 4th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions, Page 13] [Bell Farms Ltd and Canadian Farmworkers Union Local 1 - 1983-1985 Collective Agreement]

1980, Dec 05 – The CFU-Montreal Support Committee presents a cultural evening with guest speaker Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) President Jean-Claude Parrot. [Canadian Farmworkers Union Benefit - Fete au Benefice du Syndicat Canadien des Travailleurs Agricoles] [Raj Chouhan's Speech at the Ontario Support Committee Public Meeting]

1980, Dec 06 – The CFU-Ontario Support Committee holds a fundraising dinner with guest speaker Ontario Federation of Labour Secretary-Treasurer Terry Meagher. CFU President Raj Chouhan and Staff Rep Judy Cavanagh continue their visit for five days building support with trade unions and church activists to establish a new CFU-Ontario office. [Ontario - Canadian Farmworkers Union] [CFU 1st National Convention Documents; including, The First Year - National Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1980 - April 1981; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions; CFU National Constitution as presented at the Founding Convention April 6, 1980; Convention Minutes, Page 8-9] [Raj Chouhan's Speech at the Ontario Support Committee Public Meeting]

1980, Dec 07 – Twenty-five people attend a CFU Vancouver meeting in the Chinese community to discuss the working conditions of farmworkers. [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 21] [Meeting Today On Chinese Farmworkers and Immigrant Workers]

 

1981

1981, January – In the first months of the year, volunteer CFU teams continue visiting farmworkers’ houses and 200 new members join. But the membership drive does not continue after March as the volunteer organizers switch their focus to support the CFU’s strike action for first contracts at two farms that employ year-round full-time workers. At this point, the union’s “organizing strategy shifted from having a large (seasonal) membership to having a dues paying membership.” During the period of these first strikes, “very few job actions or direct confrontation with (seasonal) growers or labour contractors took place.” The membership dues structure is a $5 initiation fee, and $40 a year when under contract. [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 21] [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 24]

1981, Feb 05 – The CFU-Ontario opens an office in Toronto. [CFU 1st National Convention Documents; including, The First Year - National Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1980 - April 1981; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions; CFU National Constitution as presented at the Founding Convention April 6, 1980; Convention Minutes, Page 8]

1981, Feb 07 – Three hundred supporters attend a CFU-sponsored Nicaragua Benefit Meeting, at the Fishermen’s Hall, Vancouver, with proceeds going to Nicaragua’s National Reconstruction. Guest speaker from Nicaragua’s Institute of Agrarian Reform, Francisco Campbell, and music by The Victor Jara Chilean Folkloric Group from Seattle. Shortly after this meeting, CFU staff rep Judy Cavanagh visits Nicaragua on “a work-study tour.”

[CFU 1st National Convention Documents; including, The First Year - National Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1980 - April 1981; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions; CFU National Constitution as presented at the Founding Convention April 6, 1980; Convention Minutes, Page 10] [Nicaragua Benefit Meeting (Punjabi) ] [Nicaragua Benefit Meeting (English) ]

1981, Feb 18 – Seventy-five CFU members attend a BC Federation of Labour rally in support of striking members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Telecommunication Workers Union (TWU), and Vancouver Municipal Regional Employees Union (VMREU). [CFU 1st National Convention Documents; including, The First Year - National Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1980 - April 1981; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions; CFU National Constitution as presented at the Founding Convention April 6, 1980; Convention Minutes, Page 11]

1981, March 05 – The CFU signs up the majority of farmworkers at Fraser Valley Frosted Foods Ltd, Chilliwack, BC, and applies for certification to the LRB. The company protests and a lengthy LRB hearings results. An LRB vote is ordered to take place during a seasonal build-up. Certification is granted on September 1, 1981. The contract is signed November 9, 1981. [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 9] [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 65]

1981, March 09 – The CFU signs-up the majority of workers at Reimer’s Nurseries Ltd, Yarrow, BC, and applies for certification at the LRB. [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 9]

1981, March 20 – After seven months of first contract negotiations between CFU and Country Farm Natural Foods, Richmond, the ten alfalfa sprout workers vote to reject the grower’s final offer. The two sides fail to agree on the wage rate over a difference of .35 cents. Nineteen days later, on April 8, the workers vote to strike and set up a CFU picket line at the Richmond farm. This strike lasts all summer and is never resolved. [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 10] [Country Farm Natural Foods Ltd - Notes to Collective Agreement] [Country Farms Natural Foods Ltd and Canadian Farmworkers Union Local No.1 - Wage Proposals for Collective Agreement]

1981, March 27-29 – The CFU’s First National Convention at Douglas College, New Westminster. Nineteen delegates and five observers from CFU Support Committees (Ontario, Port Alberni, UBC, SFU and Okanagan) attend. Resolutions include: increase member dues from $25/year to $5/month($60); establish a Fraser Valley hiring hall; pressure government for childcare facilities; start an organizing campaign in the Okanagan and in Ontario; a letter writing campaign to improve Okanagan housing conditions; study affiliation to the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC); opposition to US intervention in El Salvador. The convention closed with a Sunday public rally at Moberly School, Vancouver with guest speaker Vancouver & District Labour Council Secretary-Treasurer Paddy Neale. [CFU 1st National Convention Documents; including, The First Year - National Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1980 - April 1981; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions; CFU National Constitution as presented at the Founding Convention April 6, 1980; Convention Minutes] [CFU 1st National Convention Conclusions - 1981 Public Rally] [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 88-89] [Canadian Farmworkers Union National Constitution Amendments 1981]

1981, March 30 – After a secret workers’ vote, the CFU is granted certification as bargaining agent for 26 farmworkers at Reimer’s Nurseries Ltd. [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 9] [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2]

1981, March 31 – In the Fraser Valley, after nine months of negotiations for a first contract, Jensen Mushroom Farm workers vote 20 affirmative and none negative in a secret ballot to strike. Two weeks later, on April 14, the workers establish the CFU’s second on-going picket line. [Jensen Mushroom Farm Ltd - Statement and Return of Poll] [Jensen Mushroom Farm Ltd Contract Negotiations: Monetary Proposals] [Jensen Mushroom Farm - You have rights too!]

1981, April 08 – The 10 workers at Country Farm Natural Foods unanimously vote to strike and establish the first picket line of the Canadian Farmworkers Union the next day. “The grower, an alfalfa sprout producer in Richmond employed approximately 10 workers before the strike. The negotiations with Ron Ferguson, the grower, started in August 1980. Some progress was made until December 1980 at which time he indicated he was selling his business. The Local Union applied for a mediator in January 1981. The grower at this point hired the same law firm to negotiate with the union which had been negotiating on Jensen’s behalf. The grower made his last proposal to the union on March 13, 1981. The proposal was put to the crew on March 20 and was unanimously rejected. The Local Union attempted to have a meeting with the employer but he refused to meet. In order to put pressure on the grower to negotiate with the union, the CFU on April 18, 1981, put up a (secondary) picket line at Naam Restaurant in Vancouver which (was) owned by the same employer. The grower after 3 months then sold the Naam to his general manager for a ‘fire-price’. The new owner was able to get an order from the LRB for us to stop picketing. It is our understanding that the owner has totally closed down his operations and is unemployed.” [Country Farms Natural Foods : We Are Here Because…] [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 9] [Country Farms Natural Foods : Why we are asking you not to cross our picket line…]

“The strike started April 9, 1981. The grower continued to produce and deliver his goods for two weeks. Lots of great ‘Steve McQueen’ car chases. Stores with a unionized workforce would not handle his goods. Ferguson was also a major shareholder in the NAAM, a health food store and restaurant. The Union established a secondary picket line and after a LRB hearing was granted ‘ally’ status. Picketing at the farm was 24 hours a day and at the NAAM 12 hours a day. The business was sold within four months and the Union lost its ‘ally’ status. Strike headquarters consisted of a trailer (rented at $75 per week) parked on the side of the road outside of Ferguson's yard. Richmond council ordered the trailer removed in July. CFU responded with submissions to the council and protests but in the end had to remove it. The Union responded with a flamboyant caravan through Richmond streets, to City Hall and to the NAAM. The line continued until late August and was lifted at the same time as Jensen' s. The unit has remained closed and the workers have taken other forms of employment. The loss of this unit is a result of the grower’s stubbornness and the Union's eagerness. The contract was good for a first one and all issues had been agreed upon except for a difference of $.35 an hour in the wage offer. The unit gambled for one last push but the grower retaliated and withdrew the contract.” [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 61 to 63]

1981, April 11 – The CFU’s First Anniversary Fund Raising Dinner and Dance at the Grandview Legion Hall, Vancouver, is attended by 400 supporters. Headline speakers include: UFW President Cesar Chavez; and Country Farms CFU strike leader Tarsem Rai. [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 13] [An Evening with Canadian Farmworkers : Fundraising Dinner and Dance] [Canadian Farmworkers Union Fundraising Dinner and Dance - Agenda April 11, 1981] [Canadian Farmworkers Union Fundraising Dinner and Dance - Speech April 11, 1981]

1981, April 14 – One week after the first contract strike began at Country Farm Natural Foods Ltd, Richmond, the CFU’s second picket line goes up for a first contract at Jensen Mushroom Farms, Langley. The CFU had been certified to represent the mushroom workers on July 18, 1980. The union “felt that the employer had no intention of negotiating a collective agreement. He hired an expensive law firm to drag the union into lengthy negotiations. After eight months of negotiations, the employer made his wage offer on March 21, 1981. The offer contained no medical benefits, coffee breaks, or statutory holidays. As far as the wages were concerned, the offer contained the following options: no wage increase for the next 18 months, (and) if workers wanted to have paid coffee breaks and statutory holidays then they would have to accept a 12 per cent cut in wages. Most of the workers had not had a wage increase since October 1978. After many months of maintaining a 24 hour picket line, Jensen completely stopped production and put his farm for sale for $2 million.”… “Initially Jensen maintained production as 10 workers scabbed. The line was subjected to various forms of violence from name calling, to car pounding, to a physical scuffle, to telephone wires being cut, to trucks being chased at high speeds, to an attempt to burn down the trailer while a picketer was sleeping inside. The enthusiasm and morale of the workers and supporters was quite high and they maintained the line for four months. As Jensen's were forced to stop production and the union's resources were getting low, CFU reduced the line to day shift for 3 weeks. In September 1981 the line was lifted however, the farm was continually monitored. To raise money for the strike, CFU made an appeal to labour and supporters and held a Strikers Cabaret (and) $15,950 was raised. In May 1982, Terry Wolfe, lawyer for Jensen’s, contacted the BC Federation of Labour and negotiations recommenced with CFU. The contract was signed July 30, 1982. The farm resumed operations in September. Problems with the unit commenced immediately.” [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 55 to 61] [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 9] [Strikers Cabaret] [Jensen Mushroom Farms : Canadian Farmworkers Union On Strike Picket Line Log Book No.2 ] [Jensen Mushroom Farm : Statement of Sandi Roy] [Jensen Mushroom Farm : Letter of Complaint of RCMP Behaviour on Jensen Mushroom Farms Ltd Picket Line] [Jensen Mushroom Farm : Statement of Raj Chouhan, President of the Canadian Farmworkers Union Local 1] [Jensen Mushroom Farm : Why We Are Picketing…]1981, April 18 – Country Farm Natural Food striking alfalfa sprout workers, and their supporters, set up a secondary picket line at the Naam Restaurant, in Kitsilano, Vancouver. This popular west-side Vancouver health food restaurant is owned by the same employer. [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 9] [Country Farms Natural Foods : We Are Here Because…] [Country Farms Natural Foods : Leaflet Posted on the Door Windows of Naam Natural Foods Ltd] [Country Farms Natural Foods : We Are Picketing Because…]

 

1981, April 23 – The CFU brief Conditions of Migrant Fruit Pickers in the Okanagan Valley is presented to the BC Human Rights Commission. [Farmworkers are Workers Too! - Concerning the Problems Related to Fruit Pickers and Transients in the Okanagan] [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 34] [Okanagan Fruit Pickers at BC Human Rights Commision Hearings]

1981, May 01 – The CFU-Ontario launches an organizing drive for 70,000-100,000 Ontario farmworkers. In July and August, Sandi Roy, Mutale Chanda (both CFU staff) and Craig Berggold (a volunteer and former tobacco picker) begin organizing migrant and local tobacco workers in the Simcoe, Delhi, Tillsonburg area. They live in a trailer parked in the Simcoe Labour Council parking lot, and travel with the trailer to southern Ontario parks, where they are joined by visiting volunteer Toronto lawyers and doctors (from the Medical Reform Group) who provide free medical and legal advice to migrant tobacco farmworkers. [Ontario - Canadian Farmworkers Union, Page 6] [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 102 to 124] [Ontario : Farmers Fear Violent Clash With New Union] [Ontario : Letter to Craig Berggold for summer organizing] [Ontario - Canadian Farmworkers Union : What Are Your Rights?]

1981, Summer – A CFU hiring hall and transportation committee is formed. During the previous six months, at CFU Local No.1 meetings, members had suggested that the union should organize farm contracts by buying buses to provide rides that would eliminate the labour contractors. In May, CFU President Raj Chouhan secured a personal loan ($17,000) and the CFU purchased a 1972 42-seat Bluebird bus to transport members to the fields, and a 1959 camper bus for a strike headquarters. CFU Local No.1 signs two voluntary agreements with two small berry growers in the Fraser Valley. “Union executives held discussions with Cesar Chavez who suggested simple one page contracts…”. The CFU's approach was to try to get a contract where workers would have enough work to be eligible for Unemployment Insurance benefits (UIC).

[1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 26 to 31]

At Pannu Farms 50 CFU members were dispatched. “The contract was obtained through a work connection with Harinder Mahil and Pannu’s son who both worked in the same sawmill. Pannu was having trouble getting workers, as he had a bad reputation for not paying wages and labour contractors would not sign with him. A simple three page agreement was signed effective for one year. The rate was $2.75 per flat (for berries). The grower provided transportation. The main problem for the first year was getting CFU members dispatched. The contract was signed late so most people were already working with labour contractors, and they did not want to lose their UIC qualifications. The grower also wanted to pickup people from one geographic area whereas CFU insisted upon seniority…. The contract was signed again in 1982. Many complaints were directed… (at the dispatcher for) not sending people by seniority. For hourly rate work, accusations were made that (the dispatcher) sent his family members. Meetings became very intense…. Pannu did not honour the contract. He had agreed to top up wages to $29.20 per day and to pay gas money for coming direct to the farm and did not do (either). Contract stated the hours were 8-6PM, (but) he was forcing people to work later. When he paid an hourly rate he wanted young people. His scales were not accurate. The farmworkers response was mixed, on one hand they walked out when he insisted that they pick in a poor field. On the other hand, they agreed that the Union had to show a commitment to fulfill a contract so they put up with some of the contract violations. At the end of the season CFU laid a complaint on behalf of all the workers with the Employment Standards Branch as Pannu refused to pay holiday pay. … In 1983, no contract was signed.”

At Saran Farms 20 members were dispatched. “This contract was obtained through a social connection. The grower worked in a sawmill…. (and) was a good employer but was small and could not provide enough employment to meet the UIC regulations. CFU had to provide transportation. The grower paid $.25 per flat to a transportation fund. CFU hired a driver at $65 a day…”

In early 1982, the CFU Transportation committee closes as there were too many problems. The costs to the union included storage and wages for the special drivers. The bus was still for sale in 1983. [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 26 to 31]

1981, June 08 – The CFU is granted certification as the bargaining agent for 10 workers at Grootendorst Flowerland Nursery. In August, first contract negotiations begin, but talks soon brake down and no resolution is agreed through the help of a mediator. During negotiations, “five of the original workers left and Vietnamese people were hired to replace them. The Union attempted to make contact with these new workers by working with Benny, an IWA organizer of Chinese origin, leafleting the farm and making attempts to talk with the new workers. It was to no avail. Talks went to mediation at which time the growers withdrew some key clauses they had previously agreed to. A contract was never signed. A strike vote was not taken.” Many of the original 10 workers were replaced. “We have lost some strong members. We have made approaches to the new workers but with little luck.” [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 9 to 10] [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 70 to 71] [Grootendorst Flowerland Nursery Ltd and Canadian Farmworkers Union Section 8 Complaint dated April 28, 1981 - Letter]

1981, June 13 – Over 250 supporters attend the Strikers’ Cabaret, at the Ukrainian Hall, Vancouver, to raise money for CFU members on the picket line at Jensen Mushroom Farm and Country Farm Natural Foods. [Strikers Cabaret]

1981, June 14 – The CFU’s only Special National Convention is held to vote on a policy resolution to affiliate to the largest national labour federation, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). Seventeen CFU delegates attend and the affiliation passes. Guest speakers include: CLC’s Bill Smally and New Westminster & District Labour Council’s Gerry Stoney. This CFU Special Convention was called specifically to pass the resolution that had been originally moved at the CFU’s First National Convention (March 27-29, 1981), but when Quebecois Okanagan farmworker delegates raised concerns about the CFU affiliating to the CLC, the affiliation motion had stalled. See minutes in the First Convention documents for details. [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 85 to 92] [Canadian Farmworkers Union 1981 Special National Convention]

1981, June 23 – The CFU Local No.1 and Reimer's Nurseries Ltd, Yarrow, sign the CFU’s second-ever collective agreement. [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 9] [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 65 to 66] [Open Letter To Workers At Reid Collins Nursery]

1981, June 29 – The CFU’s brief Workers Compensation Coverage is presented to the BC Minister of Labour recommending mandatory coverage for farmworkers by all growers. In July, the CFU launched a campaign for the inclusion of provincial health and safety regulations for the agriculture industry. “The campaign consisted of supporters sending telegrams, public meetings, community education, media articles and demonstrations. The WCB announced that it was extending its coverage to all farmworkers in BC to take effect as of April 4, 1983.” This inclusion was short-lived as the BC Cabinet intervened on March 10, 1983 and abolished WCB health and safety regulations for the agriculture sector. [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 34 to 36] [Workers' Compensation Board and the (BC) Minister of Labour The Honourable Jack Heinrich, Concerning Recommendations for Legislative and Regulatory Change to Provide Workers' Compensation Coverage for BC Farmworkers - Presentation]

1981, July 14 – The CFU’s brief Exemption of Farmworkers from Minimum Wage Protection is presented to the provincial BC Human Rights Branch. The CFU requested that an investigation be undertaken to determine if the exclusion of farmworkers from the Employment Standards minimum wage provisions was due to racist laws and practices. The request was denied. [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 13]

1981, July 19 – Two women farmworkers are raped and one murdered in the South Okanagan town of Osoyoos, BC. [For Immediate Release: Two women farmworkers raped and one murdered]

1981, July 27 – In Delhi, the CFU-Ontario organizes a public meeting on health and safety issues for tobacco workers on the eve of the harvest. [Ontario Public Meeting! Tobacco Workers] [Ontario Media Release: CFU-Ontario Public Meeting on 'Tobacco Poisoning' of Farm Workers] [Ontario : How Contact was made… Pesticide Poisoning or Tobacco Poisoning]

1981, August – “Approximately 4000-5000 farmworkers, in the Fraser Valley, reside in cabins on the farms during peak season. CFU organizers have had a rough time for the

last two years to enter into these cabins because the growers have maintained we are on ‘private property’. In August, 1981 we applied under Section 4 (2) the BC Labour Code (for Cabin Access). We listed the eight major growers in the Fraser Valley who have a large number of cabins. The BC Law Union lawyers acted as legal counsel during the hearings.” [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 12]

1981, Aug 16 – In Abbotsford, 125 farmworkers attend Equality for Farmworkers, a CFU public meeting that focuses on BC provincial minimum wage provisions versus piece rates for the harvesting of fruits and vegetables. [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 14]

1981, Aug 18 – In a letter to Frontier College: “The executive of the Canadian Farmworkers Union Local No.1 unanimously endorsed the development of a union educational program which is based in teaching English as a second language. In British Columbia, the majority of the farmworkers are of East Indian, Chinese and Quebecois origin. In many cases the lack of being able to converse in English has placed our membership in exploitative working conditions. Our long term objectives in adopting this type of educational program are as follows: 1. to end the exploitation of farmworkers by developing their command of the English language. 2. to eliminate the dependency on labour contractors whom farmworkers rely upon to act as their interpreters. 3. to ensure that farmworkers are treated as skilled workers by their participation in on-the-job training programs. 4. to facilitate the understanding of health and safety regulations, language and symbols We strongly feel that our educational program must meet farmworkers' needs and know, a primary need is to be able to speak, read and write in English. We request that Frontier College assist us in developing our program as we are confident that you have the knowledge and resources to help make this program possible. FARMWORKERS STRUGGLE ZINDAGAD!” [Farmworkers ESL Crusade 1981 : Plan for April 1982 to April 1983; includes August 18, 1981 CFU letter to Frontier College, Page 6]

1981, Aug 29 – In Vancouver, 400 farmworkers, and their supporters, attend a CFU rally Equality for Farmworkers demanding the same provincial employment rights that other workers enjoy (health & safety regulations, hourly employments standards, etc).

[CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 13] [Equality for Farmworkers Public Meeting Leaflet] [Equality for Farmworkers Demonstration - Media Announcement] [Equality for Farmworkers Demonstration : End Legislative Discrimination Against Farmworkers Leaflet]

1981, September – The CFU affiliates to the BC Federation of Labour. [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 90]

1981, September – The CFU President Raj Chouhan and CFU Secretary-Treasurer Sarwan Boal travel to California to visit with the United Farmworkers of America (UFW) for meetings with UFW President Cesar Chavez.

1981. Sept 01 – Good Enough To Work, Good Enough To Unionize is a poster by Toronto artists Carole Conde and Karl Beveridge that portrays southern Ontario tobacco pickers. The new CFU-National slogan references the lack of many workplace legal rights for farm workers in provinces across Canada, including the right to organize into a union. [1981 Canadian Farmworkers Union Poster - Good Enough To Work Good Enough To Unionize]

1981, Sept 01 – The BC LRB grants the CFU certification as the bargaining agent for farmworkers at Fraservale Frosted Foods Ltd, Chilliwack, BC. This large farm of vegetable produce – carrots and peas harvested mainly by mechanized machines with trucks and tractors operated predominately by European immigrants – became the CFU’s longest continuous unionized farm. There were also seasonal hand-harvested crops of rhubarb, strawberries and raspberries. [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 9]

1981, Sept 20 – Toronto's Festival of Festivals film premiere of A Time to Rise (Uthan Da Vaila) tells the story of the BC farmworkers struggle and birth of the CFU. This award-winning film is produced and directed by Anand Patwardhan and Jim Munro, with assistance from the National Film Board. [A Time to Rise - One Sheet for the 1981 NFB film by Anand Patwardhan and Jim Munro] [A Time to Rise - Press Release href="http://content.lib.sfu.ca/u?/cfu_2,4230"] [A Time to Rise - Leaflet for the 1981 NFB film by Anand Patwardhan and Jim Munro] [A Time to Rise - Poster for the 1981 NFB film by Anand Patwardhan and Jim Munro] [1980 - 'A Time To Rise' Postcard for the National Film Board of Canada 16mm film by Anand Patwarhden and Jim Munro. CFU executive member Pritam Kaur leaves the fields with fellow workers to join the CFU march against the labour contract system.]

1981, Sept 27 – Utah Phillips Benefit Concert for the Canadian Farmworkers Union, along with the Vancouver film premiere of A Time to Rise, is attended by over 700 people at John Oliver High School auditorium. [Utah Phillips Benefit Concert for the Canadian Farmworkers Union] [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 14] [A Time To Rise - Public Meeting, Page 2] [Utah Phillips Benefit Concert for the Canadian Farmworkers Union Poster]

1981, October – The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) begins contributing directly to the CFU a grant of $3000/month towards staff wages. [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 25]

1981, Late - The CFU is contacted by an irate worker from Reid Collins Nurseries who claims he had signed a union card but had never heard from the organizer again. As it was claimed, the General Farm and Allied Workers' Union (GFAWU), which was a front union for the Communist Party of Canada-Marxist-Leninist (CPC-ML), had signed workers at this nursery by representing themselves as CFU organizers. “That is, they claimed the victories the CFU had won as their own.” The CFU initiated a second organizing campaign at Reid Collins Nurseries. When the workers realized they had been misled by GFAWU, they sent revocations of their GFAWU memberships to the LRB. “Because of their actions, some of the workers were physically threatened by the GFAWU organizers. An LRB hearing was ordered and both (GFAWU and CFU’s) applications (for certification) were thrown out because neither party had enough members to warrant a vote.”

[1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 71 to 72]

1981, Oct 02, 03, 05 – In Kelowna, during the summer of 1981, the CFU opened its first Okanagan office providing free services and legal information to fruit pickers. After a summer of outreach to the approximately 4,500 local and migrant Quebecois fruit pickers in the valley, two Quebecois CFU organizers, Anne-Marie Brun and Mario Lanthier, organize three successful public meetings (screening A Time to Rise and On the Tobacco Road): Oct 2 in Keremeos; Oct 3 in Penticton; and Oct 5 at Kelowna. “We distributed booklets which listed information for the fruit pickers and leaflets about workers' rights. We closed the office in December 1981 as it has been difficult to (pay) staff regularly and because it was some distance.” [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 11]

1981, Oct 13 – CFU staff Judy Cavanagh and John Steeves of Frontier College present a joint proposal on English language training for the CFU membership. “We have decided to adopt a high-profile program which we are calling the ESL Crusade. Modeled in part on the Cuban and Nicaraguan literacy programs, this project will mobilize a significant portion of the CFU membership to use education as a means to break through

the barriers that are put around farmworkers. Some of these barriers include the labour contract system (reliance upon interpreters and transportation) and safety hazards.” [Farmworkers ESL Crusade 1981 : Plan for April 1982 to April 1983; includes August 18, 1981 CFU letter to Frontier College.]

1981, Oct 29 – The CFU’s brief Legislative Discrimination Against Farmworkers is presented to the federal Human Rights Commission at a public hearing. [Justice for Farmworkers - Time to End The Bitter Harvest] [Unemployment Insurance : The Federal Government is the Best Friend that the Vicious Farm Labour Contractor Ever Had ] [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 13]

1981, Oct 30-31, and Nov 1, 4, 8 – In the Lower Mainland, the CFU holds five days of organizing strategy sessions. Representatives from Ontario, Okanagan, Fraser Valley, and the Montreal Support Committee attend. In the past six months, “CFU has had three full time staff, Raj Chouhan, Sarwan Boal and Judy Cavanagh. Mutale Chanda was hired as full time staff in Ontario in July. Part time people worked at various periods of time: Anne-Marie Brun in the Okanagan, Harinder Mahil as a community organizer and David Hastey and Bhopinder Dhillon as bus drivers. Three law students from UBC: David Lane, Judy Mossof, Brian Loomes worked under a Ministry of Labour grant and assisted CFU for approximately three months in setting up a legal clinic.” [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 15] [Canadian Farmworkers Union 1982 to June 1983 Plan of Action]

1981, Nov 09 – The CFU Local No.1 and Fraser Valley Frosted Food Ltd, Chilliwack, sign the first of several contracts. This is the CFU’s third-ever collective agreement. [Fraser Valley Frosted Foods Limited and Canadian Farmworkers Union Local No. 1 - 1981 Collective Agreement] [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 9]

1981, December – The CFU’s brief Submission to the Employment and Immigration Commission re Section 16 of the Unemployment Insurance Act is presented to the federal Minister of Employment and Immigration asking for the elimination of Section 16 which stipulated that “farmworkers must work 25 days with one grower in order to earn UIC eligibility.” In March 1982, “Section 16 of the UI regulations were announced as abolished as of January 1, 1983. New Record of Employment forms were developed for the agricultural industry. In January 1983, growers associations (mainly from Ontario) started lobbying the federal Minister LLoyd Axworthy to reinstate Section 16. CFU and the CLC respond with lobbying and letters. Axworthy maintains his original position. On March 14, 1983, CFU discovers that the growers' associations recommenced lobbying to reinstate Section 16 or to bring in another regulation. Karen Dean on behalf of CFU goes to Ottawa to head off changes. With pressure from CLC and telegrams from other groups and lobbying CFU is temporarily successful. On July 25, 1983, Section 16 is reinstated with changes - farmworkers must work 7 days in a calendar year plus 15 hours earning

$77/per week with the same grower.” [see 1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 37 to 39] [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 13] [Unemployment Insurance : Submission to the Employment and Immigration Commission]

1981, Dec 12 – CFU organizer Sarwan Boal attends the CFU-Montreal Support Committee Event. [Canadian Farmworkers Union Benefit Speech at Montreal Quebec] [Canadian Farmworkers Union Benefit - Fete au Benefice du Syndicat Canadien des Travailleurs Agricoles] [Canadian Farmworkers Union Benefit Speech at Montreal Quebec]

1981, Dec 20 – Featuring the Fraser Valley premiere of the film A Time to Rise, the CFU presents an afternoon cultural program attended by 75 farm workers in Abbotsford. [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 14] [A Time To Rise - Public Meeting]

 

 

1982

1982, January – The CFU membership “drive changed to concentrate on building strength amongst the dues paying members. Sixteen volunteers contacted each farmworker (1,200) who had signed union cards to ask them to pay dues. The response was low. Only 150 members paid dues.” There were many reasons CFU members did not contribute: “…they could not afford the dues, they did not want to pay dues when they were not working, and they wanted a job or a contract in return for dues.” By the end of 1982, members had paid $4,936 in dues and there were 38 new members who paid the $5.00 initiation fee. [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 40 to 41] [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 44]

1982, Feb 01 – The Fraser Valley Farmworkers Legal Services Project presents a brief The Necessity for Fieldworker Shower Facilities to the provincial BC Workers' Compensation Board. [Workers' Compensation Board Submission: The Necessity for Fieldworker Shower Facilities]

1982, Feb 02 – The Fraser Valley Farmworkers Legal Services Project presents a brief The Proposed Seasonal Full-Time Farm Help Accommodation By-Law No. 2261 to the Matsqui Municipal Council on housing conditions in the Fraser Valley. [Brief to Matsqui Municipal Council - Re: The Proposed Seasonal Full-Time Farm Help Accommodation By-Law No. 2261] [Matsqui Municipal Council Proposes By-Law on Farm Camps - Media Release]

1982, Feb 06 – The CFU presents an evening cultural event at Vancouver Technical Secondary School; the Farmworkers Cultural Festival is attended by 350 supporters. With guest folk singer from England, Tara Singh Tara, and the screening of the film A Time To Rise. [Matsqui Municipal Council Proposes By-Law on Farm Camps - Media Release, Page 14] [Farmworkers Cultural Festival Leaflet]

1982, Feb 07 – In Port Alberni, 100 supporters attend a public meeting featuring guest artist Tara Singh Tara and the screening of A Time to Rise. [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 14]

1982, Feb 19 – The CFU lays off two full-time staff members. “None of the part-time staff are on salary. Office expenses for the Fraser Valley is a minimum of $3,000 per month without paying wages. We have cut back in many areas. The membership dues bring in about 8% of the overall budget. Only a small percentage of our membership is paying regular monthly dues.” [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 15]

1982, March – The CFU Local No.1 and Pannu Farms “signed a new voluntary agreement (one of the berry growers with whom we had an agreement last year). Approximately 50 workers will be dispatched. The grower has agreed to pay $3.00 per flat and $4.40 per hour plus he will provide transportation. This agreement also has a provision for a guaranteed minimum nine flats a day.” [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates, Page 14] [Pannu Berry Farm and Canadian Farmworkers Union Local No.1 - 1982 Voluntary Agreement] [Bulletin - Mandatory Workers Compensation Coverage for Farmworkers Major Victory For CFU]

1982, March 10 – In Toronto, the CFU’s brief Farmworkers and Pesticides is presented to the Federal Inquiry on Consultative Committee on IBT Pesticides requesting the banning of CAPTAN pesticide. Also, submitted to the committee is a brief The Bitter Harvest: Pesticides and Farmworkers by the Fraser Valley Farmworkers Legal Services Project. [Farmworkers and Pesticides] [Pesticide Captan Hearing] [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 35] [The Bitter Harvest: Pesticides and Farmworkers]

1982, March 17 – The BC Labour Relations Board (LRB) grants the CFU access to farmworkers’ cabins in the Fraser Valley. Eight teams visited eight farms, named in the decision. Coordinated by CFU organizer Sarwan Boal, teams of staff and volunteers including Stuart Rush, Gary Hall, Sadhu Binning, Ujjal Dosanjh, Craig Berggold, Sukhwant Hundal, Amarjit Chahal, et al visited the cabins. “Almost every team got a hostile reception from the farmers. They tried their best to stop us from talking to farmworkers. Although it was clearly spelled out in the Board's decision that no farmer or his agent should stay around when union representatives were talking to farmworkers, farmers didn't bother to leave the premises. In some cases it was very beneficial for the teams to sit down and talk with these farmworkers.” …“In most cases, the first two meetings were successful but after that, the growers did not honour the LRB Order and would come around the cabin areas on the pretense of fixing light bulbs, fridges etc and would intimidate the farmworkers. They would provoke verbal confrontations with the CFU representatives. Their main arguments were based upon the interpretation of the Order such as whether or not reps could go into cabins. ... Verbal confrontation was the growers' main tactic for stalling, blocking access, and intimidating. The growers were successful because farmworkers were sufficiently intimidated and were not willing to stand up to them to allow reps to visit them. The fulfillment of the LRB Order created the atmosphere that ‘the union is on the farm’. … Another benefit was that the access created an additional layer of strength. The year before reps were kicked out but in 1982 they walked on. The Union also saw first hand the living conditions of migrant workers and made minimal contact with them.” In 1983, the BC Law Union made another application to the LRB and the CFU was again granted access to farmworkers in their cabins. [Cabin Access : Memorandum - Farmworkers File] [Cabin Access : Labour Relations Board of BC - H.S. Rai Farms Ltd, Townline Growers Ltd, Mukhtiar Growers Ltd, J.K. Berry Farms Ltd, M&G. Bros. Farms Ltd, Bathe Farms Ltd, J.S. Toore and Sandhu Farms Ltd, - and - Canadian Farmworkers Union Local 1 - Decision of the Board] [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 41 to 44] [CFU 3rd National Convention Documents; including Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1982 to March 1983; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions; National Constitution; Convention Minutes; Report from the Ontario Region Canadian Farmworkers Union March 1983, Page 13] [Cabin Access : A Leaflet for Cabins - Your Fundamental Rights] [Cabin Access Team Meeting Agenda Notes] [Cabin Access : Re: H.S. Rai Farms Ltd, Townline Growers Ltd, Mukhtiar Growers Ltd, J.K. Berry Farms Ltd, M.&G. Bros. Farms Ltd, Bathe Farms Ltd, J.S. Toore and Sandhu Farms Ltd, - and - Candian Farmworkers Union, Local 1 (Application Pursuant to Sections 3, 5, 8, 28, 29, 30 and 138 of the Labour Code.)]

1982, March 26-28 – The CFU’s Second National Convention at Douglas College, New Westminster is attended by 30 delegates. There are 12 delegates from the newly certified units of Bell Farms, Jensen Mushroom Farm, Country Farms Natural Foods, Reimer’s Nursery, and Fraser Valley Frosted Foods; 14 delegates represent seasonal workers; and four elected National Executive members. Seven observers attend including Ontario Staff reps and two members of Montreal Support Committee. The convention passes resolutions to launch a Farmworkers Literacy Crusade and establish a Farmworkers Educational Society. [CFU 2nd National Convention Documents; including, Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1981 - March 1982; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; List of Delegates;]

1982, March 30 – From July 1981 to early 1982, the CFU launched a successful public campaign to include farmworkers under the BC Workers Compensation Act. “On March 30, 1982, the Social Credit (provincial) government announced it was extending WCB coverage to all BC farmworkers effective April 4,1983.” This major victory for CFU efforts is dashed a year later when “the Socreds removed the enforcement of WCB health and safety regulations for the agricultural industry.”

1982, May – Jensen Mushroom Farm negotiations restart while the one year long strike continues. [Jensen Mushroom Farm Ltd Contract Signing - Media Release]1982, May 21 – In Vancouver, the Human Rights Commission of BC holds a public hearing on the Discrimination Against Farmworkers. The CFU presents a brief asking the provincial government to end all legislative discrimination against farmworkers and is supported by 28 organizations and individuals. One of the most important briefs The Racist History of Present Laws That Discriminate Against Farmworkers is presented by Fraser Valley Farmworkers Legal Services Project. On February 17, 1983, the Commission released its report What This Country Did To Us, It Did To Itself. “The Commission accepted the gist of the presentations which called for the equality of farm workers before the law.” [The Racist History of Present Laws That Discriminate Against Farmworkers] [Discrimination Against Farmworkers Public Hearing : Submission to the Human Rights Commission of British Columbia] [Discrimination Against Farmworkers Public Hearing : Brief Presented to the Human Rights Commission of British Columbia] [Discrimination Against Farmworkers Public Hearing : Housing for Immigrant Farm Workers] [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 35] [CFU 3rd National Convention Documents; including Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1982 to March 1983; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions; National Constitution; Convention Minutes; Report from the Ontario Region Canadian Farmworkers Union March 1983, Page 12] [What This Country Did To Us, It Did To Itself - A Report of the BC Human Rights Commission on the Farmworkers & Domestic Workers - February 1983]

 

1982, Summer – Organizing in Ontario is still hindered by the exclusion of farmworkers from the Ontario Labour Relations Act. (Farmworkers are not protected in their right to join a union – a right all other workers take for granted.) In addition, farmworkers are excluded under the Ontario Employment Standards Act and Health and Safety Act. “In the summer of 1982, the CFU concentrates efforts on investigative research in the Windsor, Leamington, Chatham area, which is the most productive agricultural region in the country. Farmworker support groups have been active in Ottawa, Windsor and Toronto. Three union-sponsored legal clinics staffed by volunteer lawyers and law students operated in Toronto, Brantford and Cambridge last summer.” [CFU 3rd National Convention Documents; including Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1982 to March 1983; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions; National Constitution; Convention Minutes; Report from the Ontario Region Canadian Farmworkers Union March 1983, Page 17] [Ontario Region Canadian Farmworkers Union - Report March 1983] [Ontario - Canadian Farmworkers Union] [Ontario CFU Staff Meeting Minutes]

In early 1983, the Ontario Tolpuddle Farm Labour Information Committee produces four brochures in English, French and Portuguese titled: 1) Farmworkers: the invisible minority in Ontario: an introduction for the public; 2) Farmworkers Speak Out: our rights/our health and safety; 3) Migrant Workers and their Families; 4) Family Life, Women and Child Labour. [Ontario Tolpuddle Farm Labour Information Committee : Pamphlet 1 : Farmworkers - the invisible minority in Ontario: an introduction for the public] [Ontario Tolpuddle Farm Labour Information Committee : Pamphlet 2 : Farmworkers Speak Out - our rights - our health and safety] [Ontario Tolpuddle Farm Labour Information Committee : Pamphlet 3 : Migrant workers and their families] [Ontario Tolpuddle Farm Labour Information Committee : Pamphlet 4 : Family life, women and child labour]

1982, June – In the summer of 1981, a CFU office was established in Kelowna, BC and closed in the winter. CFU staff representatives Anne-Marie Brun and Mario Lanthier (who lived in the Okanagan region) made contact with hundreds of local and migrant farmworkers. In 1982, they produced and distributed a French-English bilingual Pickers Manual (with the aid of the CFU-Montreal Support Committee) with information about farmworkers rights and a directory of services in the Okanagan Valley. “…. Problems surfaced between the Okanagan organizers and the (CFU) executive and staff. The organizers did not want to participate in strategy sessions without all farmworkers present. They criticized the style of democracy within the union. These problems were not resolved to the satisfaction of anyone and they resigned as official CFU representatives in 1982.” Anne-Marie Brun and Mario Lanthier continued to reside in the Okanagan and formed the Okanagan Farmworkers Group. “In 1982/83 CFU relied upon supporters Peter Chataway in Kelowna and Peter and Dianne Brown in Keremeos to monitor the working and living conditions of farmworkers. In August another vicious attack on a group of farmworkers took place. Local community people formed the Smilkameen Farmworkers Support Committee to lobby for better working and living conditions. There now appears to be three voices for farmworkers in the Okanagan. The Okanagan Farmworkers Group, The Smilkameen Farmworkers Support Committee and the Canadian Farmworkers Union.” [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 80 to 84] [Picker's Manual For the Okanagan - Le Petit Manual Du "Picker" La Vallee De L'Okanagan]

[CFU 3rd National Convention Documents; including Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1982 to March 1983; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions; National Constitution; Convention Minutes; Report from the Ontario Region Canadian Farmworkers Union March 1983. Page 16 to 17]

1982, June to 1983, July – The CFU begins an English language needs assessment called ESL Crusade: A Time To Learn funded by the federal Secretary of State. CFU staff Sarwan Boal and John Steeves of Frontier College take an interview questionnaire around to the homes of 62 farmworkers (52 women) over the course of a year. The report, with farmworkers’ comments, is a snapshot of Indo-Canadian farmworkers in south Vancouver, including: Length in Canada; Education; and Work History. CFU staff Judy Cavanagh launches a fundraising campaign for the farmworker’s literacy program. The BC Teachers Federation votes to donate $30,000 ($1 per member) at their annual convention. [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 45 to 46] [Farmworkers ESL Crusade 1983 : 'A Time to Learn' - Draft. A report on the needs assessment survey for the ESL Crusade of the CFU] [For Dignity and Justice - The Challenge of the 80's for Educators]

1982, June 19 – One 150 supporters attend a CFU fundraising evening organized by the BC Federation of Labour and Canadian Labour Congress.

[CFU 3rd National Convention Documents; including Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1982 to March 1983; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions; National Constitution; Convention Minutes; Report from the Ontario Region Canadian Farmworkers Union March 1983, Page 15]

1982, June 26 – In Mission, a farmworker, Frank Smith, dies in a tractor accident. [Brief to the New Democratic Party on Legislative Issues Affecting Farmworkers, Page 5]

1982, July 03 - An unlicensed farm labour contractor’s van, unsafe and overloaded

with 30 people overturned on the highway resulting in many injuries. In the first six months of 1982, the WCB did not inspect any labour contractor vans. "Once again the blood of farmworkers has been shed, due to government indifference," Raj Chouhan of the Canadian Farmworkers Union claimed. "The injuries suffered by 25 farmworkers on Saturday must be added to the long list of deaths and injuries that farmworkers - and their children - have suffered because the government refuses to treat farmworkers like other workers," Chouhan stated. Chouhan was commenting on an accident that occurred on Saturday, July 3rd, in which an overloaded farm labour contractor's van flipped over on Highway 1 near Surrey. Thirty men, women, and children had been jammed in the standard-sized van, for transportation to a Valley berry farm. "In 1975," Chouhan said,"a woman was killed in a similar incident near Chilliwack. In 1980 our Union asked the provincial government to regulate these deathtrap vans, the way that the government regulates vehicles in other industries. We warned the government that tragedy was inevitable if action was not taken." … "The government did not listen, just as they did not listen to our warnings about the terrible housing conditions that claimed the life of Sukhdeep Madhar in 1980." … "Today, as a result of the government's indifference to farmworkers, 25 farmworkers are injured. One woman has 18 stitches on her face. Another woman lies in hospital with spinal injuries. Others have suffered head injuries." … "Something has to be done about unsafe farm labour contractor vehicles, and it should be done fast. If the Minister of Labour wants background on the problem, he should dust off the brief we gave him on this issue more than two years ago. The RCMP and WCB need to be mobilized to safeguard the lives of farmworkers." [Labour Contractor's Van Flipped on Highway Farmworkers Injured] [Inspection of Farm Labour Contractors' Vehicles]

1982, July 30 – The CFU Local No.1 and Jensen Mushroom Farm Ltd sign a first contract after a 15-month bitter strike and 24 months after the workers first voted to join the union. Problems began immediately when “the farm re-opened on September and seven union supporters and seven non-union advocates returned to the job. Between September 1982 and June 1983 the unit increased to 47 workers, however, there was a turnover of more than 30 people before that number was reached.” In November, anti-union shop stewards were elected. Many new Laotian immigrant workers were hired and not until April 1983 did Laotian translators attend the union meetings. By the spring of 1983, only six active pro-union members were left from the majority who originally signed cards in March 1980. “Grievances were levied by pro-union members but were never resolved to the union's and workers' satisfaction. There was no clout and absolutely no compromise spirit on Jensen’s side. Two grievances were going to arbitration: Suhkwant Brar - fired (deemed to have quit) because of an error in reporting to work after being sick; Gurnam Dhaliwal recipient of three disciplinary warnings all of which the union considered ‘harassment’. The arbitrations were not held before the decertification vote. On April 1, 1983, the employees applied for decertification. [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 55 to 61] [Jensen Mushroom Farm Ltd Contract Signing - Media Release] [Jensen Mushroom Farm Ltd and Canadian Farmworkers Union - Collective Agreement] [CFU 4th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions, Page 13] [Jensen Mushroom Farm - CFU signs First Contract - For Immediate Release] [Jensen Mushroom Farm Contract Proposal - CFU Comments]

1982, August – The CFU hires ESL coordinator Vanneau Neesham for the first program of the Farmworkers ESL Crusade: A Time To Learn. In the fall, the first curriculum is developed, and the first tutors recruited are Gary Hall, Elaine Doyle, Joanne Power, Sherry Snaid, and Ian Knipe. [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 45]

1982, Aug 20 – The CFU’s Victory Celebration for the end to a 15-month strike at Jensen Mushroom Farm is attended by more than 200 supporters at the 49th Ave Legion Hall, Vancouver. Music by The Original Balkan Jam. [Jensen Mushroom Farm Victory Celebration Leaflet Poster]

1982, Aug 28 – Two seasonal farm workers and two growers suffer organo-phosphate poisoning after eating vegetables sold at a roadside stand. “Four people almost died while producing food for BC dinner tables,” Raj Chouhan, president of the CFU announced today. “As of Monday night, Daljeet Rai remained in the Intensive Care Unit of Surrey Memorial Hospital," Chouhan added. “The victims were diagnosed as being poisoned by an organophosphate pesticide - the type of pesticide first developed by the Nazis as a nerve warfare weapon. Presently, farmers are free to spray such pesticides without any pesticide training whatsoever and with no checkup as to the safety of their spray equipment. The only way to prevent pesticide poisonings of both workers and consumers is through tough regulations by Workers' Compensation at the workplace, before the produce hits the marketplace. The CFU demands that the WCB immediately adopt California's safety regulations to prevent this type of accident. Today nothing protects us. We are really only asking for the very basic precautions: training for pesticide applicators, proper protective gear for sprayers, posting of fields that have been sprayed, rules against re-entering sprayed fields until a minimum period of time has elapsed, and provision of wash facilities for workers. The Workers Compensation Board cannot, in good conscience, make farmworkers wait any longer for these fundamental safeguards.” [Pesticide Organo-phosphate poisoning of seasonal farm workers] [Pesticide Poisoning Incident]

1982, Sept 15 – The Fraser Valley Farmworkers Legal Services Project submits Pesticide Regulations Brief to the BC Workers Compensation Board (WCB). This pointed brief concerns the lack of provincial agricultural pesticide regulations. [Pesticide Regulations Brief : Submitted to WCB]

1982, Oct 30 – "At 3:00 a.m. on October 30th, a 19 year old farmworker, Jarnail Singh Deol, lost his struggle against pesticide poisoning," said Raj Chouhan, President of the Canadian Farmworkers Union. "His death might have been prevented." Mr. Deol was hospitalized on two occasions and diagnosed as suffering from acute overexposure to pesticides. A total of six people had been hospitalized from the same farm, and investigations have yet to reach a conclusion. There are no authorities currently responsible for the regulation of pesticide use on private land." Jarnail's death is no mere accident of fate. His death stands as a monument to government inaction. "To those who demand patience, to those who are tired of our voices shouting for equality, we say: no more deaths! No more watching our young people die, our children being poisoned. Our children are as precious as yours, our young people are our future." The actual dates of the poisoning incidents are Sept 5 and 10, 1982. The Coroner’s Inquest was held on March 7-11, 1983. [Pesticide Poisoning Death Jarnail Singh Deol] [Death of a Farmworker : Summary - Jarnail Deol] [Death of a Farmworker : Appendix A - Case Study] [Death of a Farmworker : Verdict of Coroner's Jury - Jarnail Singh Deol] [Pesticide poisoning deaths - Draft notes]

1982, November – The Ontario Federation of Labour Convention passes a resolution supporting the CFU organizing farmworkers in Ontario. [CFU 3rd National Convention Documents; including Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1982 to March 1983; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions; National Constitution; Convention Minutes; Report from the Ontario Region Canadian Farmworkers Union March 1983, Page 18]

1982, Nov 25 – The CFU writes a letter of protest to the BC Minister of Labour alleging that BC Cabinet Minister James Hewitt’s comments at the BC Federation of Agriculture meeting, to intervene on behalf of farmers in matters concerning Workers Compensation Board (WCB) coverage to farmworkers, is an interference in the operation of the WCB, and the drafting of health and safety regulations in the agriculture industry. [Letter of protest: BC Government interference in the operation of WCB.] [On the Verge of Equality Under the Workers Compensation Act]

1982, Nov 28 – The CFU afternoon cultural event A Popular Theatre Program features a theatre play A Girl and A Dream by Bharti Nat Kendra, and Gaddar Dee Goonj performed in bhangra dance by Punjab Cultural Association, at the Queen Elizabeth Secondary School, Surrey. [A Popular Theatre Program]

Exact date in 1982 to be determined – From a CFU press release: “Basta Grewal's chest was severely injured by a mushroom auger that did not have a 'kill' switch, due to the lack of BC provincial agricultural health and safety regulations.” … “There are hundreds of Basta Grewal's in this province, and the ultimate responsibility for negligence rests with the provincial government,” said Raj Chouhan, President of the Canadian Farmworkers Union. Mr. Chouhan was commenting on the finding of negligence by the jury hearing the injury case of Basta Grewal, a mushroom worker in the Fraser Valley. Mr. Grewal was seriously injured by an unguarded mushroom spawning machine almost two years ago. “The machine that destroyed this man's life is still in use in nearly all 90 BC mushroom farms . Experts tell us that it is completely unsafe, and that it would take as little as $15.00 to change it from a weapon of destruction into a tool,” said Chouhan. “But because of the provincial government, this farmer is exempted from health and safety regulations, and is still subjecting his workers to possible injury or death.” [Basta Grewal Mushroom Worker Accident]

 

1983

1983, January – “In January, a meeting was held to establish a (CFU) Dues Collection Committee. …A complaint was that the dues were too high for families and they did not want to pay dues if they were not working ($60/year per person). It is clear that (CFU) services do not rate as high as jobs for people to support the union. Approximately 37 new members. Dues paid $ 2,295.00 (as of July 31, 1983).” … “A shift in resources took place to concentrate on year round units in order to establish a financial base rather than seasonal organizing. The strategy for seasonal workers was kept low-key with the main focus on fulfilling the requirements for cabin access.” … “Traditional organizing methods had been used: worker contacts, organizing committees, house visits, phone calls. Organizers usually worked in teams. Most of the drives were kept low-profile and quiet. In some cases, farm leafleting took place but usually only prior to a vote …the mushroom, nursery and greenhouse industries were explored. …A couple of farms were targeted and attempts were made to get people to sign union cards. Organizers applied for jobs. License plate numbers were taken from workers cars and attempts to track down the registered owners took place.” [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 47 to 55]

1983, Jan 14 – The CFU Local No.1 and Bell Farms, Richmond, renew a two-year collective agreement at the cranberry farm. Wage rates increase 12% over one year. Starting in January 1983 wage rates are $7.35-$9.15, and the average rate is $8.65.

[CFU 4th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions, Page 10] [Bell Farms Ltd and Canadian Farmworkers Union Local 1 - 1983-1985 Collective Agreement]

1983, January 25 – The CFU participates in the first meeting of the WCB’s new sub-committee to draft provincial guidelines for agricultural pesticide regulations. The committee includes representatives from the BC Federation of Agriculture, WCB staff members, lawyer Calvin Sandborn on behalf of the BC Federation of Labour, and CFU President Raj Chouhan. Joint recommendations are agreed upon, but later overturned on March 10 by the provincial government’s cabinet decision. [Workers' Compensation Board Public Hearings Regarding Second Draft Amendments to Health and Safety Regulations - Presentation] [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 35]

1983, February – A month after renewing the contract at Bell Farms, the grower, Jack Bell, “sold three parcels of land which reduced its acreage from 280 acres to approx. 40 acres. This has greatly reduced the number of workers in the unit. CFU applied for successor status whereby the new owners would have to recognize the union but the LRB did not find in CFU’s favour. The decision was appealed.” [CFU 4th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions, Page 13] [Bell Farms Ltd, May Brothers Farms Ltd, Columbia Cranberry Company Ltd, and Jack Bar Farms Ltd are employer successors to Bell Farms Ltd - Labour Realtions Board of BC - Application letter] [Bell Farms Ltd, May Brothers Farms Ltd, Columbia Cranberry Company Ltd, and Jagbar Farms Farms Ltd and Canadian Farmworkers Union, Local 1 - Labour Relations Board of British Columbia Decision] [Bell Farms Ltd, May Brothers Farms Ltd, Columbia Cranberry Company Ltd, and Jagbar Farms Ltd and Canadian Farmworkers Union, Local 1 - Labour Relations Board of British Columbia Decision] [Bell Farms Ltd, May Brothers Farms Ltd, Columbia Cranberry Company Ltd, and Jagbar Farms Ltd and Canadian Farmworkers Union, Local 1 - Labour Relations Board of British Columbia Decision] [Return of Poll - Columbia Cranberry Company Ltd]

1983, Feb 02 – Pesticides in BC Agriculture, a brief by Rex Eaton, Industrial Hygiene Officer on Special Project Assignment, is submitted to the BC provincial government. This is a comprehensive provincial study in the application of pesticides by family farm members, hired farmworkers, and contracted applicators. Reviews specific pesticides in use, toxicities and worker exposure. Also, statistics for the BC agricultural labour force and overview of crops with extensive reference notes. [Pesticides in BC Agriculture]

1983, Feb 17 – What This Country Did To Us, It Did To Itself - A Report of the BC Human Rights Commission on the Farmworkers & Domestic Workers - February 1983 was based on the public hearings from May 21, 1982. The report is an historic recognition by one agency of the BC provincial government of ‘systemic legislative racism’ in their provincial government policies. The 1982 CFU brief outlined ending all legislative discrimination against farmworkers and was supported by 28 organizations. One of the most important briefs The Racist History of Present Laws That Discriminate Against Farmworkers is presented by Fraser Valley Farmworkers Legal Services Project. The Commission report accepted the gist of these presentations which called for the equality of farm workers before the law and recommendations included: all exclusions of farmworkers be removed under provincial Employment Standards Act; Industrial Camp Regulations implemented; protection from pesticides, including showers. Six months later, the Human Rights Commission of British Columbia was closed and its staff fired as part of BC Premier Bill Bennett’s 'Restraint Budget'. The budget cuts to community services and workers’ contracts led to the formation of Operation Solidarity and province-wide labour strikes, as well as, Solidarity Coalition organizing community fight back. [What This Country Did To Us, It Did To Itself - A Report of the BC Human Rights Commission on the Farmworkers & Domestic Workers - February 1983] [BC Human Rights Commission Press Release: Farmworkers and Domestic Workers]

1983, March 01 – The CFU submits a brief Unemployment Insurance and Farmworkers to the Unemployment Insurance Commission. A detailed review of how federal Unemployment Insurance Act discriminates against seasonal farm workers. [Unemployment Insurance and Farmworkers]

1983, March 03 – “In early 1983 a relative of a worker at (Choi’s Mushroom) farm contacted the Union. An organizing attempt began. But, before it could be completed most of the crew was fired. The grower discovered that the workers were contemplating unionizing, so he put two tubs of mushrooms into the trunk of one of the cars. He then accused the crew of stealing or collaborating to steal and he fired six of them. As there are only 10 workers at the farm this action was quite drastic. Those workers who had not signed cards prior to the firings (most of them had not) signed within 48 hours of the firings. The Union made an application for certification based upon the original workers employed as of March 3, 1983. Lengthy LRB hearings have spread over six months. At this stage, a decision should be forthcoming. It was during these hearings that the minutes of the directors meetings of the Fraser Valley Mushroom Growers Coop Association were entered as evidence. Some of the minutes strongly suggest the involvement of the Association into the affairs of Jensen Mushroom Farm during negotiations and the strike. Specifically, the growers have been able to obtain legal assistance. It is debatable as to whether or not their fees have been paid.”

[1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 72 to 73] [CFU 4th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions, Page 10]

1983, March 10 – From January to March 1983, the “CFU participated in a WCB sub-committee which was established to draft guidelines for pesticide regulations in the agricultural industry. These guidelines were completed.” However, on March 10, the Social Credit BC government reversed its announcement from a year ago and “removed the enforcement of WCB health and safety regulations for the agricultural industry. In their place, they suggested establishing an educational Farm Safety Agency.” The CFU responded with two demonstrations. There was “a public outcry, editorials, condemnation from labour, letters to the editor, radio and TV programs.” On March 22, 200 people demonstrated at the WCB headquarters in Richmond, BC; and again, on April 10, the CFU rallied 350 people in downtown Vancouver. [ 1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 35] [CFU 4th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions, Page 13]

[Health and Safety Regulations : Dishonest Betrayal by the Social Credits] [Health and Safety Regulations : For Immediate Release] [Health and Safety Regulations : For Immediate Release - Farmworkers excluded from WCB]

1983, March 11 – The BC Coroner’s Office announces the Verdict of the Coroner’s Jury into the October 30, 1982, pesticide poisoning death of Jarnail Singh Deol. The jury found the death was a ‘preventable homicide’ and made recommendations for pesticide health and safety regulations. [Death of a Farmworker : Summary - Jarnail Deol] [Death of a Farmworker : Appendix A - Case Study] [Death of a Farmworker : Verdict of Coroner's Jury - Jarnail Singh Deol]

1983, March 22 – A CFU rally protesting the lack of health and safety coverage for farmworkers, at the Workers Compensation Board headquarters, in Richmond, is attended by over 200 people. The CFU is joined by the BC Federation of Labour’s Health and Safety Committee delegates. [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 35] [A Time To Change Exhibition. Photo 17 by Craig Berggold. Raj Chouhan, president, Canadian Farmworkers' Union, and Judy Cavanagh, staff rep, rally at the Workers' Compensation Board Headquarters. Richmond, BC, March 22, 1983]

1983, March 25-27 – The CFU’s Third National Convention at Douglas College, New Westminster is attended by 47 delegates, including two delegates from Jensen Mushroom Farm who had crossed the picket line but were not allowed to sit at the convention. The guest speaker was from the Manitoba Farmworkers Association. The CFU delegates passed a resolution of support for the CST Nicaragua (Sandinista Workers Federation), and to cut Canadian aid to Honduras due to the USA backed Contras invasion of Nicaragua three days before the convention. [CFU 3rd National Convention Documents; including Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1982 to March 1983; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions; National Constitution; Convention Minutes; Report from the Ontario Region Canadian Farmworkers Union March 1983]

The convention report highlights current CFU staffing problems. In BC, Raj Chouhan, Sarwan Boal, and Judy Cavanagh are on staff, and in Ontario Mutale Chanda and Erma Stultz. “Wages for these people has been sporadic, and in most cases the staff have been on, or are on, Unemployment Insurance benefits and continue to work as volunteers. Of course, this reduces their effectiveness as they also are looking for employment. The back-up for all of these people are the volunteers who continue to support our struggle. Without their assistance, the following areas would not have been possible: the fulfillment of cabin access teams, the staffing of legal clinics and information centres, labour board representatives, legislative battles, fundraising, homes to stay in when out of town, educational presentations to new groups, posters, buttons, office renovations, photo documentation, typing and filing, moral support. We are proud of the commitment shown by the volunteers and by our staff.” [CFU 3rd National Convention Documents; including Executive Report on the Activities of the CFU April 1982 to March 1983; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions; National Constitution; Convention Minutes; Report from the Ontario Region Canadian Farmworkers Union March 1983, Page 13]

1983, April 01 – Some of the workers at Jensen Mushroom Farm applied for decertification. “A running battle was taking place between union organizers and anti-union supporters. The vote was held July 8th. CFU lost 23/22. After a couple of hours of morass at the office, three Jensen workers decided that the union should reorganize the unit. New sign-ups started immediately and the union re-applied for certification on July 15th with a 55% majority. On August 1 and August 17 the same team of anti-union workers started a petition and revocation of membership campaign. A formal hearing was set for September 29-30. Jensen's is a valuable example of what the CFU faces in organizing year round units. The grower often has family members working with him/her. They become members of the bargaining unit. At one time Jensen had nine family members working at the farm and on average there were seven. The majority of the workers are from different cultural backgrounds, Punjabi, Laotian, Vietnamese, Caucasian. Many workers have new immigrant status, they have been in the country for less than three years and are somewhat in awe of ‘authority’ figures –government officials and the employer. A major problem at Jensen's was the resentment incurred by the 15-month bitter strike. CFU Local No.1 did not have guidelines about discipline measures for scabs. The union also bent over backwards to accommodate all the workers in an attempt to bring about harmony in the workplace.” [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 55 to 61] [Jensen Mushroom Farm Ltd Contract Signing - Media Release] [CFU 4th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions, Page 13] [Jensen Mushroom Farm Ltd and Canadian Farmworkers Union - Collective Agreement]

1983, April 08 – CFU President Raj Chouhan stands on trial on fabricated assault charges stemming from an incident at a BC Organization to Fight Racism (BCOFR) rally where the participants were attacked by the extreme left group CPC-ML. All charges were dropped against the BCOFR participants. Several BCOFR supporters were beaten badly with severe head injuries. [Raj Chouhan's trial - minutes]

1983, April 09 – The CFU’s Third Anniversary Celebration is attended by 550 people, including guest speaker UFW President Cesar Chavez. [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 93-94]

 

1983, April 10 – Support the Farmworkers March is sponsored by the CFU and the BC Federation of Labour. Hundreds of farm workers, taking buses from 3 Lower Mainland Sikh temples, rally at Victory Square and march to Robson Square, Vancouver, led by UFW President Cesar Chavez. Rally leaflets ask: “A Question For You… Can safe working conditions be achieved through education as suggested by the BC Federation of Agriculture, or have safer working conditions been implemented through regulations? If farmworkers are prevented from having regulations BC’s other industries can be de-regulated too.” Guest speakers include, BC Federation of Labour Secretary-Treasurer Mike Kramer, and NDP candidate Ujjal Dosanjh. Music by Peter Dent.. [Support the Farmworkers] [A Time To Change Exhibition. Photo 26 by Craig Berggold. Cesar Chavez, president UFW, and Raj Chouhan, president CFU, lead a march demanding health and safety regulations for farmworkers. Vancouver, BC, April 10, 1983] [A Time To Change Exhibition. Photo 27 by Craig Berggold. Raj Chouhan, CFU president, and Cesar Chavez, UFW president, relax after speeches. Vancouver, BC, April 10, 1983] [A Time To Change Exhibition. Photo 28 by Craig Berggold. CFU rally demanding health and safety regulations for farmworkers. Vancouver, BC, April 10, 1983] [A Time To Change Exhibition. Photo 29 by Craig Berggold. CFU picket signs after the rally. Robson Square, Vancouver, BC, April 10, 1983] [A Time To Change Exhibition. Photo 30 by Craig Berggold. CFU executive member Pritam Kaur and her farm worker friends protest the exclusion of farmworkers from health and safety regulations. Vancouver, BC, April 10, 1983]

1983, April 27 – At the 1983 CFU Convention, CFU-Ontario staff reps presented a resolution with an organizing plan for Ontario. The plan was not debated, instead the debate focused on whether the CFU should be organizing in Ontario. It was thought that the CFU was under attack in BC and that the union’s resources were stretched to the limit, and, therefore, it was unwise to open up another front. The resolution was defeated. “In May 1983, CFU temporarily suspended its organizing operations in Ontario. The Ontario office closed. All resources were to be concentrated in BC. Raj Chouhan visited Ottawa May 1-5 and Montreal May 5-8.” [Letter to Suspend CFU Organizing in Ontario] [Letter to Suspend CFU Organizing in Ontario] [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 116] [Letter to Suspend CFU Organizing in Ontario] [Ontario Itinerary Raj Chouhan] [Ontario Canadian Farmworkers Union 1983 Summary of Meetings] [Letter to Suspend CFU Organizing in Ontario]

1983, May – The CFUs first Farmworkers ESL Crusade - A Time to Learn is completed. Forty Punjabi students, mostly women in their 50s-60s attended classes of 3-4 people in each others’ houses. Eight ESL classes for farmworkers in South Vancouver were coordinated by union staff and taught by volunteer tutors. “English is important to eliminate the dependency on labour contractors,” says ESL Coordinator Vanneau Neesham. [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 46] [CFU 4th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions, Page 11] [Farmworkers ESL Crusade 1983 : 'A Time to Learn' - Draft. A report on the needs assessment survey for the ESL Crusade of the CFU] [Farmworkers ESL Crusade 1983 : Photo Book by Craig Berggold] [A Time To Change Exhibition. Photo 23 by Craig Berggold. A volunteer tutor uses ‘problem-posing' drawings to deal with issues like "Bringing Strawberries to the Scales." Vancouver, BC, March 1983]

[A Time To Change Exhibition. Photo 24 by Craig Berggold. A volunteer tutor teaches counting in English to a farmworker in her home. Vancouver, BC, March 1983] [A Time To Change Exhibition. Photo 25 by Craig Berggold. An ESL graduate holds her 'A Time to Learn, A Time to Grow' certificate at the annual graduation ceremony. Vancouver, BC, March 1983]

1983, May – The CFU affiliates to the Vancouver and District Labour Council.

[1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 92]

1983, Summer – The CFU wins ‘Cabin Access’ for the second year in a row after extensive hearings at the BC Labour Relations Board. “CFU again won access to migrant farmworkers cabins at five farms in the Fraser Valley.” Teams of CFU staff and volunteers “made limited contact with farmworkers. The growers continued to violate the terms of the order by ensuring that their presence was felt when union organizers were visiting.” [CFU 4th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions, Page 12] [Cabin Access : To Interested Parties, Re: H.S. Rai Farms Ltd et al - and the Canadian Farmworkers Union, Local 1 (Section 4(2) Application, Ref. No. 1/83)] [Cabin Access : Canadian Farmworkers' Union and Bathe Farms Ltd] [Cabin Access : Report of Incident at Sandhu Farms Ltd] [Cabin Access : Report of incident at J.S. Toor Farm]

1983, June 28 – The CFU and Fraser Valley Frosted Foods renew a two year collective agreement ending Dec 31, 1984. Wage rates increase 16% over two years, and starting January 1984 hourly wages are $6.24 to $10.21, and the average rate is $7.58. “During 1982, Fraser Vale eliminated all of its hand-harvested crops, rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, thus eroding the bargaining unit by 35 people who worked for a period of 5 months each year. In December 1982 negotiations recommenced with the union focusing heavily on job security and seniority provisions. With the assistance of a mediator, the contract was signed June 28, 1983 for two years.” [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 66 to 68] [CFU 4th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions, Page 10] [Fraser Valley Frosted Foods Limited and Canadian Farmworkers Union Local No. 1 - 1983 Collective Agreement]

1983, July 07 – “The newly elected Socred BC government introduced its budget along with 26 new Bills which will dramatically affect the quality of life in BC. Various broad based coalitions were formed to oppose the legislation. CFU participates in the following: Operation Solidarity, Lower Mainland Solidarity Coalition, Solidarity Coalition, Women Against the Budget, and Sikh Coalition.” [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 52 to 53]

The BC provincial government introduced a set of legislative policies based on deep cuts to social programs, education, civil society and regressive economic policies that still shape life in BC. The government eliminated the province’s Human Rights Commission and Rent Review office, tightened government control over school boards and colleges, dropped government enforcement of employment standards, and extended public sector wage controls indefinitely. It gave the government the right to fire employees almost immediately. By the end of August, 1983, 50,000 people attended a protest rally at Empire Stadium and by the middle of October, 80,000 people were marching in protest on the streets of Vancouver, past the assembled convention of the Social Credit party.

1983, July 23, July 27, Aug 10, and Oct 15 - The CFU marched in BC-wide demonstrations protesting the ‘restraint’ budget of Social Credit Premier Bill Bennett. “The massive fight back under the banner of Operation Solidarity and the Solidarity Coalition are a mere hint of what is possible by extra–parliamentary activity…. We responded to the calls from BCGEU for flying pickets. We walked the lines in Vancouver and in Surrey. We held public meetings for our membership in Abbotsford and in New Westminster. We translated Operation Solidarity materials into Punjabi and Laotian languages. We continue to demand the re-instatement of human rights and social services.” [CFU 4th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions, Page 12] [Operation Solidarity Meeting Minutes] [Solidarity Coalition Petition] [Operation Solidarity Recommendations]

1983, July 25 – A small victory for CFU lobbying efforts when the Federal Unemployment Insurance Regulations-Section 16 is amended. “Since 1981 we have been working to eliminate Regulation 16 which stated that farmworkers had to work 25 days with the same grower and earn $250.00 in the season before they were eligible for UI weeks. This stipulation has caused much hardship to farmworkers who become entangled in a bureaucratic maze and were forced to rely upon labour contractors who could take them from farm to farm to provide the necessary 25 days.” The amended UI regulation “now states that farmworkers must work 7 days and earn $77.00 a week with the same grower in the season before they are eligible for UI weeks. We will still be working to eliminate Regulation 16 until we have the same stipulations as all other workers in Canada.” [CFU 4th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions, Page 11] [Unemployment Insurance and Farmworkers]

1983, August – The CFU affiliates to the New Westminster and District Labour Council. [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2, Page 91]

1983, August 10 – At the Operation Solidarity and Solidarity Coalition rally, at the Empire Stadium in Vancouver, tens of thousands of people protest the provincial government cutbacks.

1983, Aug 11 – In the Okanagan, Quebecois fruit pickers are attacked at a Keremeos pickers’ camp beside the Similkameen River. There are other reports of a physical assault and knife attack on a family of migrant pickers. [Okanagan Keremeos Pickers Attacked at Camp]

1983, Aug 12 – The CFU and Operation Solidarity hold a health and safety demonstration at the opening of new WCB headquarters in Richmond, BC. [Health and Safety Demonstration at the WCB headquarters in Richmond, BC, Aug 18, 1983 : Rally at the opening of new WCB offices]

1983, Sept 18 – Operation Solidarity, Zindabad, Public Meeting. Various broad based coalitions were formed to oppose the BC provincial governments legislation to cut public services. The CFU participated in the following: Operation Solidarity, Lower Mainland Solidarity Coalition, Solidarity Coalition, Women Against the Budget, and Sikh Coalition.

[Operation Solidarity - Zindabad - Public Meeting] [Raj Chouhan's Speech - A Time to Rise]

1983, Oct 10 – 1983 CFU Report - Draft 2. One of the most important internal reports on CFU activities, including organizing history at each farm with self-evaluations. Written by Judy Cavanagh, Raj Chouhan, and Sarwan Boal. The report includes: a BC-wide overview of farm work in both seasonal and year-round operations; a survey of CFU-Ontario; an official CFU history; and a report by David Lane called An Overview of Organizing Potential 1983 documenting mushroom, nurseries, diary and berry operations. [1983 CFU Report - Draft 2]

1983, Oct 17 – The CFU and Reimer Nurseries Ltd renew a two-year collective agreement ending June 15,1985. Wage rates increase 12% over two years. In June 1984, rates are $6.56-$10.13, and the average rate is $9.18. [CFU 4th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions, Page 10]

1983, Oct 31 – The CFU’s brief Submission to the Parliamentary Committee on Visible Minorities is a pointed historical review of federal and provincial laws that exclude visible minorities (people of colour). Racism and prejudice are enshrined in discriminatory laws that effect farmworkers. [Submission to the Parliamentary Committee on Visible Minorities]

1983, Nov 08 – A CFU brief Safety in Okanagan Orchards 1983 is presented to the BC Fruit Growers Safety Committee. Recommendations to improve migrant Quebecois fruit pickers’ living and working conditions. [Safety in Okanagan Orchards 1983]

1983, Nov 17 – The BC provincial government announces all cabins for migrant farmworkers will be covered under the new Industrial Camps and Health Regulations. Another small victory for CFU’s lobbying campaign against discriminatory legislation that excluded farmworkers. [CFU 4th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions, Page 12]

1983, Nov 25 – The BC Labour Relations Board rules that the CFU is decertified at Jensen Mushroom Farm. (The vote was held July 8 1983 and the CFU lost by one vote.) This was CFU’s first certification in July 1980. “This unit had a tumultuous history. Lengthy negotiations ended in a 15 month bitter strike. The farm opened again in Sept 1982. Less than 50% of the pro-union supporters returned to work. Between Sept 1982 - April 1983 over 70 people had been on the payroll before a workforce of 47 was in place at decertification.” See summary of worker comments and interviews of union and anti-union workers in the BC Labour Relations Board report. [Jensen Mushroom Farms Ltd - and - Canadian Farmworkers' Union Local 1 Application for Cancellation of Certification] [Jensen Mushroom Farm : So You Want To Kick Out the Union?] [CFU 4th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions, Page 13] [Jensen Mushroom Farm : Vote Yes on the Secret Ballot] [Jensen Mushroom Farm Ltd - Return of Poll] [Jensen Mushroom Farms Ltd and Canadian Farmworkers Union Local 1 (Application for Cancellation of Certification) - Two letters to Labour Relations Board of BC] [Jensen Mushroom Farms : BC Ministry of Labour Investigation Re: Jensen Mushroom Farms Ltd and Canadian Farmworkers Union Appliciation for Certification]

1983, Dec 01 – The CFU’s non-profit organization Deol Agricultural Education and Research Society hires Farmworkers ESL Crusade coordinator David Jackson full-time to organize the 1984 classes. The Farmworkers ESL Bulletin is circulated to 600 adult ESL teachers in Lower Mainland area. [Farmworkers ESL Crusade 1984 Report 'A Time to Grow'] [Farmworkers ESL Crusade 1983 : Deol Agricultural Education and Research Society Overview of English Language Programs] [Farmworkers ESL Crusade 1983 Bulletin] [Farmworkers ESL Crusade 1983 : 'A Time to Grow' - A Problem Posing English Language Curriculum for Mushroom Farmworkers - Curriculum and Syllabus]

1983, Dec 28 – The CFU wins certification as the bargaining agent for the workers at Choi's Mushroom Farm. An “application for certification was made in March 1983 but the grower fired 70% of the crew.” After a lengthy LRB hearings and a long 9-month wait, the CFU won certification and all the fired workers were reinstated. The CFU entered negotiations for a first contract with the grower, but no agreement was ever signed. [CFU 4th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions, Page 10] [Choi Mushroom Farm Ltd and Canadian Farmworkers Union - Labour Relations Board of British Columbia Decision]

 

1984

1984 – Changes to the provincial BC Labour Code make organizing farmworkers much more difficult. These 1984 amendments to the Act introduced mandatory representative votes, new rights of employers to enhanced ‘free speech’, and the banning of secondary picket lines. [Discussion Paper on New Strategies for Organizing New Canadians, Page 4]

1984, January – The CFU is actively involved in the process to draft agricultural health and safety regulations for the BC Workers Compensation Board. [Workers' Compensation Board Public Hearings Regarding Second Draft Amendments to Health and Safety Regulations - Presentation] [Workers' Compensation Board Public Hearings Introductory Remarks] [Raj Chouhan's Speech at WCB Public Hearings, Richmond]

1984, January – The CFU’s second Farmworkers ESL Crusade is launched with 12 classes (10 in south Vancouver and two in Delta) with three Punjabi speaking tutors and professional ESL teachers who have trade union experience. “We are trying to relate the curriculum closely to farm work recognizing that English is a vital aspect of our struggle.” [Farmworkers ESL Crusade 1984 Report 'A Time to Grow' ] [CFU 4th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions, Page 11]

 

1984, Feb 05 – The CFU launches a new fundraising campaign, Farmworkers Sustainers Club, in the broad community. [Farmworkers Sustainers Club - Join the Club]

1984, Feb 22-27 – Raj Chouhan and Sarwan Boal take a northern BC road trip to Williams Lake, Quesnel, and Prince George to meet with farmworkers and sign new members. Several large meetings are attended by hundreds of farmworkers.

[Canadian Farmworkers Union 1984 Agenda and Minutes for Union Staff Meeting, Page 1 ]

1984, March – The House of Commons, Special Committee on Visible Minorities in Canadian Society, releases a report Equality Now! with recommendations for federal and provincial governments to investigate farmworkers working and living conditions. [Equality Now! - Report of the Special Committee on Visible Minorities in Canadian Society]

1984, March 28 – A CFU press release states, “The WCB refused to put forth the drafted guidelines on pesticide regulations to public hearings in January 1984. The labour advisory committee of the WCB walked out. On October 17, the BC Federation of Labour and CFU filed a writ against the (WCB) Board and the BC government in the (BC) Supreme Court. Hearings were scheduled for March 29-30, 1984. But on March 28, 1984, the (WCB) Board passed a special motion to the exclude farmworkers from the act. Once again the (WCB) Board cowardly betrayed us. The (pesticide)regulations drafted in Jan-March 1983 are now being published as guidelines by the Board. Until they become the compulsory regulations, they are of no help.” [CFU 4th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions, Page 13-14]

1984, April 15 – The CFU’s Fourth National Convention at the IWA Hall, New Westminster is attended by 36 delegates, including worker delegates from Bell Farms, Choi Mushroom Farm, Fraservale and Reimers Nursery. The guest speaker is from the Manitoba Farmworkers Association. [CFU 4th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions]

1984, May 01 – The CFU proposes launching a CFU Legal Clinic to provide legal services related to individual problems for farmworkers. Legal Services for Farmworkers - Project Proposal is the template for the CFU Legal Clinic that came about after the Fraser Valley Farmworkers Legal Services Project closed down in Spring 1985. First Karen Dean, and later Mike Fleming, would provide counsel and assistance to members, and non-members, at the CFU office. Most of the legal clinic’s work assisted farmworkers in filing Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefit claims and appeals. Other counsel included immigration issues.[Legal Services for Farmworkers - Project Proposal]

1984, May 06 – The CFU’s second Farmworkers ESL Crusade ends with a graduation celebrations for all tutors, students, families, union staff and CFU executives at Marpole Community Centre, Vancouver. The film A Time To Rise is shown, food is served, and the women gidha dance. Several people join the union. Eleven volunteer tutors taught 40 students between Jan-May. [Farmworkers ESL Crusade 1984 Report 'A Time to Grow']

1984, May 27 – After signing up the majority of women workers at Hoss Mushroom Farm in south Langley, the CFU makes an application to be certified as the bargaining agent. When the grower finds out about the organizing, he fires several of the women workers. In a letter, CFU staff rep Judy Cavanagh writes to the mushroom grower (Hoss) Harbhajan Singh Uppal, “It has just been brought to my attention that you fired 5 employees at 9PM this evening. This is in direct violation of Section 3 and 8 of the Labour Code.” A complaint is registered along with the application for certification. The next day, the grower fired another six women workers who approached him about the first unjust firing. “After several days of information picketing at the farm and at the Mushroom Growers Coop, the (BC) Labour Relations Board gave a cease and desist order.” The secondary picket line was lifted at the Fraser Valley Mushroom Coop and picketing continued Hoss Mushroom Farm – the primary work site. [CFU 5th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions, Page 11] [Hoss Farm Letter for Certification ] [Farmworkers ESL Crusade 1986 : Tutor Manual, Page 16] [Fraser Valley Mushroom Growers Co-operative Association v. Canadian Farmworkers Union - Supreme Court of British Columbia ] [Hoss Farm Workers : We Have Become Stronger Than Before - Watno Dur Magazine May/June 1984] [A Time To Change Exhibition. Photo 11 by Craig Berggold. Jasweer Kaur Brar and Jasbir Kaur Sagoo, two mushroom pickers who had just joined the union and been fired, on picket line. South Langley, BC, May 29, 1984] [A Time To Change Exhibition. Photo 12 by Craig Berggold. Sakhdarshanpar Machi, Jasbir Kaur Sagoo and Jasweer Kaur Brar, all new union members on picket duty. South Langley, BC, May 29, 1984]

[A Time To Change Exhibition. Photo 13 by Craig Berggold. The fired women brought their children with them to the picket line. South Langley, BC, May 30, 1984] [A Time To Change Exhibition. Photo 14 by Craig Berggold. A secondary picket line at the Fraser Valley Mushroom Growers' Co-operative—which packaged mushrooms under the brand name Money's Mushrooms. Langley, BC, May 31, 1984]

1984, May 28 – CFU delegates Raj Chouhan and Sarwan Boal attend the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) in Montreal, Quebec. Boal quickly returns to Vancouver to manage the new Hoss Mushroom Farm picket lines.

1984, June 5-6 – In the city of Amritsar, soldiers of the Indian army attack the Golden Temple where Sikh separatists maintain a base of support. The temple is the most important shrine of the Sikh religion. Soldiers killed hundreds in the attack and Indo-Canadians in Vancouver, other Canadian cities, and around the world, protest the repression and violence.

1984, July 13 – Internationally renowned popular educator Paulo Freire visits the CFU office to meet with the Farmworkers ESL Crusade tutors and union staff. [Farmworkers ESL Crusade 1984 Report 'A Time to Grow']

1984, July 26 – At Hoss Farm, in south Langley, the new CFU members who were fired by the grower for joining the union continued their picket line, and on July 26th “…the LRB issued the certification at (Hoss Farm) and ordered that the terminated workers be rehired with back wages. But the problem didn't end there. The harassment of workers continued. Despite several unfair labour practice complaints the harassment is still going on. In fact four women are still fired. Several attempts were made to get the employer to the bargaining table but to no avail. A complaint under section 6 of the Labour Code was filed.” [CFU 5th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions, Page 11] [EPH0025] [Hoss Farm : Have You Really Decided to Kick the Union Out? ] [Hoss Farm : Harbhajan Singh Uppal - Hoss Farming Co. Ltd -and- Canadian Farmworkers Union (Application for Certification) ] [Hoss Farm : Do You Know that CFU has Successfully Organized Hoss Mushroom Farm in Langley ] [Mushroom Farmworkers Struggle Continues]

1984, Sept 06 – The CFU requests continued Canadian Labour Congress funding of a monthly donation of $4000. [Canadian Labour Congress: Request for Continued Funding]

1984, Nov 24 – The CFU’s annual Farmworkers Benefit Dinner and Dance at the Legion Hall (49th & Fraser), in Vancouver. Music by Communique. [Farmworkers Benefit Dinner and Dance Leaflet ]

 

1985

1985, Exact date to be determined – The BC Social Credit provincial government amends the BC Labour Code introducing Bill 28, an anti-worker legislation that effects workers picketing rights, strikes, and the ability to organize the unorganized —making it easier to decertify union representation.

1985, February – A CFU public event at the New Westminster Sikh temple is attended by several hundred community members. [CFU 5th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions, Page 10]

1985, March – The CFU Local No.1 and Bell Farm, Richmond, renew the collective agreement for the third time “with an increase in wages.” In February 1983, after the sale of 80% of Bell Farm to three other farms (May Brothers, Jagbar Farm, and Columbia Farms), the CFU applied for successorship status and won a BC LRB decision at two of the farms, Columbia and Jagbar. “At Columbia Farms, the workers didn't vote for the union. At Jagbar Farm, negotiations are now underway. This has sent a ripple of hope among seasonal workers.” [CFU 5th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions, Page 11] [Bell Farms Ltd, May Brothers Farms Ltd, Columbia Cranberry Company Ltd, and Jagbar Farms Ltd and Canadian Farmworkers Union, Local 1 - Labour Relations Board of British Columbia Decision ] [Return of Poll - Columbia Cranberry Company Ltd ]

1985, March – CFU staff representative Judy Cavanagh, “who has worked with the union right from the beginning”, leaves for a new job in Saskatoon. [CFU 5th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions, Page 12]

1985, March 23 – The CFU’s Fifth National Convention at the IWA Hall, New Westminster, is attended by 28 delegates, and guest speakers are BC Federation of Labour Secretary-Treasurer Cliff Andstein, and Canadian Labour Congress Len Ruel. [CFU 5th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions]

The 1985 convention report states: “CHOI MUSHROOM FARM; Again with the help of (lawyer) Jeff Granger (also the lawyer for Hoss Mushroom Farm and the Fraser Valley Mushroom Cooperative), this employer has done everything possible to stall the negotiations. After 15 months, since this farm was certified, we still don’t have a first agreement.” [CFU 5th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions, Page 11]]

The convention report continues: “REIMER NURSERIES; Raghbir Atwal, an employee of this nursery, was fired in 1983. CFU did everything possible to get him reinstated, but decided not to take his case to arbitration because it was very weak. In fall of 1984, he filed a complaint against the union under section 7 of the Labour Code. An informal hearing took place in October '84 and the formal hearings were held on March 12-13 at the LRB. Decision is pending.” [CFU 5th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions, Page 11]

1985, April 28 – In Abbotsford, the CFU sponsors an afternoon cultural program, presenting the play Picket Line (written by Vancouver Sath, and performed in Punjabi) that dramatically recreates the women’s story of struggle for decent working conditions and union recognition at Hoss Mushroom Farm. With speaker BC Federation of Labour President Art Kube, and, Paul Binning's Punjab Cultural Association dance group performing bhangra. Co-sponsored with the BC Federation of Labour, Indian Peoples Association of North America (IPANA), and the BC Organization To Fight Racism (BCOFR). [Canadian Farmworkers Union 1985 Cultural Program ] [Vancouver Sath : Picket Line Script excerpt in Watno Dur Magazine Vol.13 No.107]

1985, May – The 3rd annual Farmworkers ESL Crusade ends with a graduation party at the Moberly Community Centre, Vancouver. The literacy program “ran from December 1984 to April 1985. There were 14 classes meeting in students’ homes all over the Greater Vancouver area…16 volunteer tutors and 60 students. …ESL tutors talked about the conditions of farm work and the union more than ever, thanks to two new (teaching) materials… One of these was a set of 10 drawings by Shirley McGrew depicting various problems in farm work. The other was the video Farmworkers Zindabad by Craig Berggold, Alex Charlton and Sukhwant Hundal. Tutors encouraged their students to talk about the problems shown in these materials and to discuss what can be done to improve the conditions of farm work, and what is involved in joining and supporting the union.” David Jackson was the ESL Coordinator in 1984-85. Joanne Millard came on as ESL Coordinator in July 1985. She had been a tutor during the previous two years.

[CFU 6th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 9] [CFU 5th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; Resolutions, Page 11] [Farmworkers ESL Crusade 1984 : Language in Action - Be A Tutor ][ Farmworkers ESL Crusade 1985 : 'Farmworkers Zindabad' Book Proposal ] [Farmworkers ESL Crusade 1985 : Tutors and Student Manual for 'Farmworkers Zindabad'] [Farmworkers Zindabad Video Script] [Farmworkers Zindabad Script, 2nd draft] [Farmworkers Zindabad Song ] [Farmworkers ESL Crusade 1985 : 'A Time to Grow' - A Set of Ten Problem Posing Drawings for the Farmworkers ESL Crusade - Tutor's Guide First Draft] [Farmworkers ESL Crusade 1985 : 'A Time to Grow' - A Set of Ten Problem Posing Drawings]

 

1985, Sept 23 – At a press conference, the CFU hosts United Farm Workers of America (UFW) President Cesar Chavez, who announces the beginning of the next UFW Grape Boycott. Chavez was here to “promote the union's second major table grapes boycott.” The CFU staff laid the groundwork and provided media information, in order to kick off the boycott here in Vancouver. BC Federation of Labour President Art Kube, Canadian Labour Congress Director of Organization Len Ruel, Father Jim Roberts, Cesar Chavez, and CFU Secretary-Treasurer Sarwan Boal, spoke. The conference was considered a success and was attended by most major electronic and print media. [CFU 6th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 8] [Grape Boycott : Campaign in Canada Proposal] [Grape Boycott : USA Senator Edward M. Kennedy in Support of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers' Grape Boycott] [Grape Boycott : Cesar Chavez in Vancouver ] [Death of a farm worker - United Farm Workers of America] [Grape Boycott : CFU Press Release ] [Grape Boycott : Declaring 'War on Pesticides' Cesar Chavez Organizes to Make Grape Boycott of '60s and '70s Work in the 1980s ] [Grape Boycott : United Farm Workers of America AFL-CIO: Why is there a new grape boycott? ]

1985, Oct 19 – Over 600 supporters attend the CFU’s annual Evening with Farmworkers Fund Raising Dinner and Dance at the RCA Forum in Richmond. Guest speaker UFW President Cesar Chavez. [An Evening with Farmworkers Fund Raising Dinner and Dance ] [CFU 6th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 8] [Raj Chouhan's Speech at the 1985 Farmworkers Fund Raising Dinner and Dance]

1985, Oct 20 – CFU founding member and BCOFR President Charan Gill is assaulted by members of the International Sikh Youth Federation at the New Westminster Sikh Temple. Four witnesses sign an affidavit. [Affidavit: Witnesses to assault of Charan Gill at New Westminster Sikh Temple]

1985, Nov 13 – The CFU holds an important internal union meeting of staff and key supporters to discuss the strategy and tactics of a future BC-based Mushroom Boycott that never did happen. [Mushroom Boycott - To All Members of the Farmworkers Support Committee] [Mushroom Boycott ] [Mushroom Boycott Meeting Minutes] [Staff Meeting Minutes 1986 - Canadian Farmworkers Union ]

 

1986

1986, January – The CFU’s fourth annual Farmworkers ESL Crusade holds nine ESL classes until the end of April. [CFU 6th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 9] [Farmworkers ESL Crusade 1985 (Year Four) : Program Proposal ] [Farmworkers ESL Crusade 1986 : Tutor Manual ]

1986, March 16 – The CFU’s Sixth National Convention at IWA Hall, New Westminster, is attended by 25 delegates. CFU president Raj Chouhan stands down after six years, plus one year as president of the FWOC. Sarwan Boal is elected the new CFU president. [CFU 6th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions] [Raj Chouhan's Speech: To Stand Down as CFU President ]

The convention’s report describes many setbacks for organizing at the CFU’s year-round workplaces. “1985 was a hard year for the CFU. The Socred government's changes in the BC Labour Code have made it tougher even for the established unions to survive. Unions in general have been losing certifications. We have lost 3 certifications in 1985.” [CFU 6th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 5]

The 1986 convention report states: “CHOI MUSHROOM FARMS LTD; Since 1983 we have been fighting to get a first agreement at this farm. Our lawyers have spent a lot of time at the LRB. The employer had hired a number of Laotian workers and applied for decertification. The Labour Relations Board ordered a representation vote. Some workers

were intimidated and others were bought off by the employer, and in July 1985, after a hard fight, we finally lost this unit.” [CFU 6th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 5]

The convention report continues: “REIMERS NURSERIES LTD; We have had problems with this unit right from the beginning. The workers had divided into 2 groups –pro-union and anti-union. We tried our best to keep the unit together for 3 years. The employer hired more anti-union workers and applied for decertification. We were able to win the first bid against the decertification. But, after 4 months, the employer was able to get together enough anti-union forces, and we lost by one vote.” [CFU 6th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 5]

The convention report continues: “HOSS FARMS LTD; This farm has a unique history. We all know about this stubborn employer who used every possible means of harassment to intimidate the workers. We tried to get a first collective agreement. The employer hired scabs and applied for decertification. The LRB ordered a representation vote but we challenged all the scab votes, and the matter again went back to the LRB. After a long fight for several months at the LRB, our union was able to get back wages for our workers who had been unjustly fired. We must commend the pro-union women workers who militantly fought back in spite of tremendous harassment.” [CFU 6th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 5]

The convention report continues: “JAGBAR FARMS LTD; This farm is a successor to Bell Farms Ltd. We had given the employer our contract proposal. In the meantime, one group of employees applied for decertification. The LRB hearings are still pending.” [CFU 6th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 6]

The convention report continues: “COLUMBIA CRANBERRY FARMS LTD; This farm also was a successor to Bell Farms, but it was not an automatic successorship. The LRB ordered a representation vote where 3 workers from Bell Farms were allowed to vote. A vote was held, but we lost. These decertifications happened because of the drastic changes in the BC Labour Code. The employers are taking full advantage of these changes.” [CFU 6th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 6]

The convention report continues: “BERRY LAND FARMS LTD; This farm is owned by Jim Pattison. In early August, 1985, we initiated an organizing drive at this farm. We applied for certification with a sizeable majority. While we were waiting for the representation vote the employer started harassing the workers through one of their supervisors. This supervisor had initially signed the union cards. He fired one of his sons immediately and promised better jobs to the other workers. The company successfully created an atmosphere of panic and intimidation which helped the employer to win some votes to his side. The company also challenged one of the worker's right to vote. We filed an unfair labour practice grievance against the company, but the LRB ordered the representation vote without hearing it. Again we lost. Most of the problems we ran into on these farms is directly related to the new Socred labour code. …Everyone of these farms has a group of workers who support the union.” [CFU 6th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 6] [Berryland Foods : Labour Code of British Columbia Labour Relations Board: Application For Certification at Berryland Foods] [Berryland Foods : Labour Code of British Columbia Labour Relations Board - Complaint of Violation] [Berryland Foods field workers have second thoughts after threats - Memo to Raj Chouhan] [Berryland Foods : Labour Relations Board of British Columbia Decision between Berryland Foods, A Division of Jim Pattison Enterprises Ltd and Canadian Farmworkers Union Local No.1 ] [Berryland Foods field workers : A Secret Ballot Vote. Yes, and What is a Union? ] [Berryland Foods - A Division of Jim Pattison Enterprises Ltd - Return of Poll ] [Berryland Foods, A Division of Jim Pattison Enterprises Ltd and Canadian Farmworkers Union Local No.1 - Labour Relations Board of British Columbia Decision]

 

1986, April 22 – Art for Organizing - Canadian Farmworkers Union is a visual art show that opens at A Space Gallery, Toronto, curated by Craig Berggold, in conjunction with the first 1986 Toronto Mayworks Festival of Working People and the Arts. The show included I would like to tell you a story….Health and Safety Regulations Now! a photo-narrative series and installation by Craig Berggold; documentary photos of Ontario tobacco workers by Carole Conde and Karl Beveridge; a large ESL Banner by David Jackson; To pick is not to choose video by John Greyson; A Time to Rise film by Anand Patwhaden and Jim Munro; Bhangra dance photos by Paul Binning. The poster image is from the video Farmworkers Zindabad. [Art for Organizing - Canadian Farmworkers Union Poster] [Art for Organizing: Canadian Farmworkers Union - Installation Drawing - I Would Like To Tell You A Story… Health and Safety Regulations Now! ] [Art for Organizing: Canadian Farmworkers Union - Press Release ] [Art for Organizing: Canadian Farmworkers Union - Text Panels ] [ I Would Like To Tell You A Story… Health and Safety Regulations Now! : Letter to Lucy Lippard] [Art for Organizing: Canadian Farmworkers Union - Labour Designates Day of Mourning for job casualties ] [Art for Organizing: Canadian Farmworkers Union - Invitation to CLC delegates] [1986 Mayworks, A Festival of Working People and the Arts - Catalogue ]

1986, April 24 – The CFU releases the Farmworker Health and Education Project Survey Report. An extensive report, compiled from farmworkers' surveys on health and safety, that determined the frequency and severity of injury and disease and the percentage of these injuries that are reported to the provincial BC Workers' Compensation Board. Also, Summary of Recommendations; and appendix Case Study of the Death of a Farmworker that tells of Jarnail Deol's 1982 pesticide poisoning. [Farmworker Health and Education Project Survey Report ]

1986, May – The CFU’s fourth annual Farmworkers ESL Crusade graduation celebration is at Moberly Community Centre, Vancouver. ESL coordinator Joanne Millard steps down to finish her MA thesis but continues to volunteer. [CFU 7th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 23 to 24] [Farmworkers ESL Crusade 1986 : Internal evaluation ]

1986, May 22 – The CFU’s Rally Against Changes To Unemployment Insurance Regulations, at the regional UIC office, on Georgia Street, Vancouver, is attended by 600 farmworkers and supporters. The CFU presents a petition with over 8000 signatures against the new 16 week rule required for UIC benefits. “The 16 week rule came into effect March 1986, when the Statistics Canada figures showed that the unemployment rate in the Vancouver region had fallen below 11.5%. ...it was hard enough for farmworkers to find even 10 weeks of work on the farms –16 week made it impossible for the majority of farmworkers to become eligible for UI benefits. Svend Robinson, the NDP Member of Parliament from Burnaby, spoke in the House of Commons to oppose the 16 week rule. [Rally Against Changes to Unemployment Insurance Regulations ] [Rally Against Changes to Unemployment Insurance Regulations : 16 Weeks Why? No More UI ? What Next? ] [CFU 7th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 19]

1986, July 02 – The CFU photo exhibit, I would like to tell you a story…Health and Safety Regulations Now! by Craig Berggold, opens at the main Vancouver Public Library. The exhibit dramatized true farmworker accidents and deaths. The large photos (combining staged farmworkers and documentary images) with large text panels also traveled and exhibited across Canada. The premiere exhibit was at the 1985-29th BC Federation of Labour Convention in Vancouver. [At The Vancouver Public Library - Canadian Farmworkers Union - Photo Story 1 and Photo Story 2] [A True Story... Farmworkers Demand Health and Safety Regulations Now! - Photos by Craig Berggold ] [I would like to tell you a story… Health and Safety Regulations Now! Photo 01 , 07 and 11]

1986, Aug 08 – Sadhu Binning completes his master thesis The Canadian Farmworkers Union: A Case Study in Social Movements. Sadhu is a co-founder of the Indo-Canadian theatre group Vancouver Sath – the cultural and literary collective that performed plays (i.e. Picket Line and Crop of Poison) about the farmworkers struggle in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley. Sadhu was also one of the editors of Watno Dur, an Indo-Canadian Punjabi-language literary cultural magazine that published in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. [The Canadian Farmworkers Union: A Case Study in Social Movements ]

1986, Sept 27 – The CFU rallies over 1000 farmworkers and supporters, at Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Vancouver, and march to the Old Courthouse in a major campaign to protect farmworkers right to Unemployment Insurance Benefits (UI). In February, 1987, the CFU submitted a brief to a House of Commons Standing Committee that criticized the Forget Commission Report, and offered their own recommendations. “…farmworkers and all seasonal workers should qualify for UI benefits after 10 weeks; that the eligibility requirement for farmworkers to work at least 7 days for the same employer, before their employment becomes insurable be eliminated.” [CFU 7th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 19] [Unemploment Insurance : Come March With Us Join The Canadian Farmworkers Union] [Letter to Vancouver Sun ]

1986, Nov 22 – Over 600 people attend the CFU’s annual Evening with Farmworkers Fund Raising Dinner and Dance at Hellenic Community Centre, Vancouver. Guest speakers are Canadian Labour Congress President Shirley Carr, and United Farmworkers of America First Vice-President Dolores Huerta, who speak on the theme Women’s Contribution to the Labour Movement. [An Evening with Farmworkers Fundraising Dinner and Dance] [CFU 7th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 20] [Sarwan Boal's Speech at CFU Benefit Dinner ]

1987

1987, January – The CFU’s fifth annual Farmworkers ESL Crusade is launched with 15 classes. New ESL coordinator Cheryl Howrigan implements a slight shift in focus to teaching materials focused on domestic issues.[CFU 7th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page23 to 024]

1987, Feb 27 – In 1983, the CFU was certified at Choi Mushroom Farm, but the employer refused to negotiate a first contract; by 1985 the unit was decertified. Four years after certification, and after much work by the BC Law Union lawyers, the BC Labour Relations Board rules that the workers at Choi Mushroom Farm are entitled to $35,000 in back wages. A bitter victory considering the unit never signed a first contract.

[CFU 7th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 19]

1987, March 22 – The CFU’s Seventh National Convention at IWA Hall, New Westminster, is attended by 125 delegates (111 seasonal worker delegates; and only two delegates from the Fraser Valley Frosted Foods year round unit; also, 12 executive member delegates). Guest speakers: BC Federation of Labour President Ken Georgetti; and Wayne Easter, President of National Farmers Union. [CFU 7th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions]

The convention report begins with an honest appraisal: “The year 1985 was especially a killer, when we had lost almost all the certified units except one, and our overall membership had dropped to only twenty. …We have already increased our general membership ten-fold. We need to go back to the grass-roots and revive our union’s strength among farmworkers. In 1986, we again started door knocking and house meetings, which are the backbone of the union.” [CFU 7th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 18]

The convention report states: “FRASER VALLEY FOODS: We have been holding on to this unit despite a number of decertification attempts all instigated by the employer. The new employer now is Jim Pattison, who bought Fraser Vale in 1985. He also owns Berryland Farms Ltd. The company has been trying to amalgamate Fraser Vale into Berryland Farms Ltd. Should this happen, it would mean a reduction of work at Fraser Valley Foods and the elimination of jobs. The company is using this threat as a weapon to intimidate workers, telling them that there will be no expansion of production and more loss of jobs. The company has been telling workers that they cannot stay in competition if they have to pay union wages. There are only 9 field workers left at Fraser Valley Foods, to date , down from 60. The last decertification attempt was made in July, 1986. The Company became successful in sowing the anti-union seed in one of the worker's head. He led the decertification application convinced some of the other workers that if they got rid of the union, they would get more work. The union filed an unfair labour practice at the Labour Relations Board. A 2 day hearing took place on February 27-28, 1987.” [CFU 7th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 18]

The convention report continues: “NEIGHBOURHOOD COMMITTEES; The Canadian Farmworkers Union has only one Local right now, and our members live in different areas, far apart from each other. It has always been a problem for our members to get together and meet at one place. To facilitate active participation and fruitful open discussions, we have organized the membership into Area Committees. We call them Neighbourhood Committees. These committees are still in the initial stages, but the South Vancouver Neighbourhood Committees have already met twice. Members who live in that area all turned out.” [CFU 7th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 18]

1987, April 06 – Come and Celebrate the 7th Anniversary of the CFU at a benefit sponsored by Isadora’s Restaurant, at Granville Island. Vancouver Sath theatre group performs Picket Line (in English), also, music by Bob Bossin, Tom Hawken and the Euphoniously Feminist Non-performing Quintet. [An Evening Come and Celebrate - 7th Anniversary of the Canadian Farmworkers Union] [Come Celebrate With Us Letter]

1987, April 26 – In opposition to the provincial Social Credit government introducing anti-labour Bills 19 & 20, the CFU organizes a community meeting attended by 400 people from eleven Indo-Canadian organizations. Guest speaker is BC Federation of Labour Secretary-Treasurer Cliff Andstein. [CFU 8th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 16]

1987, May – Over 100 farmworkers and family members attend the CFU’s fifth annual Farmworkers ESL Crusade graduation celebrations at Moberly Community Centre, Vancouver. [CFU 8th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 18]

1987, May 3 – The CFU holds a day-long workshop for eighty farmworkers on two topics, Pesticides, and, Daycare for Children of Farmworkers. Co-sponsored by the BC Human Rights Coalition, Association of Multicultural Societies, and Social Service Agencies of BC. [CFU 8th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 15]

1987, July – On the invitation of the CFU, Dr. Marion Moses (National Farmworkers Health Group, USA) begins preliminary work on conducting a BC study of pesticide use and its effects on farmworkers . [ CFU 8th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 15]

1987, July – The CFU presents a brief Agricultural Health and Safety Regulations to the BC Minister of Labour that includes a summary of many of the 1980’s farmworkers’ injuries, and documentation of the provincial government’s unwillingness to implement agricultural health and safety regulations. The brief includes statistics on the number of BC farms (20,000+), and health inspections (500+). [Agricultural Health and Safety Regulations: Background information and suggested questions for the Minister of Labour]

1987, Sept 20 – CFU President Sarwan Boal presents a Discussion Paper on New Strategies for Organizing New Canadians, at the BC Federation of Labour, Boycott Conference. The report is an historical outline of racism, manifested in Canadian federal and provincial laws that prevent new immigrants from working and organizing in various industries. Also, the CFU presents 'community unionism' as a labour organizing strategy for the future trade union movement. [Discussion Paper on New Strategies for Organizing New Canadians]

1987, Oct 16 – Over 500 people attend the CFU’s annual Evening with Farmworkers Fundraising Dinner and Dance at Scottish Cultural Centre, Vancouver. CFU First Vice-President Jawal Singh Grewal is made an Honourary Lifetime CFU Member in a special ceremony. The guest speaker is BC Federation of Labour Secretary-Treasurer Cliff Andstein, and, music by Ginger Group. [CFU 8th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 16] [An Evening with Farmworkers Fundraising Dinner and Dance]1987, Dec 04 – Talking Union - Songs for Organizing is a CFU fundraising music tape featuring 20 songs by musicians including Pete Seeger, Phil Vernon, and Ginger Group. Some of the songs are written especially for the farmworkers struggle. The cover art illustration is by BC visual artist Claire Kujundzic. The project was organized and produced by Vancouver's Julius Fisher of Slim Evans Records and Tapes. [Talking Union - Songs for Organizing Press Release] [Talking Union songs for organizing - Poster]

 

1988

1988, January – The CFU’s sixth Farmworkers ESL Crusade is launched and classes expand outside of the South Vancouver area to include Surrey, Burnaby and New Westminster. “A slight shift in focus to teaching materials focused on domestic issues.” For example, Craig Berggold’s photo-story This is Avi, dealing with poisons in the home, is used in classes. [Farmworkers ESL Crusade 1988 : 'This is Avi'- Teaching Aid] [CFU 8th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 18]

1988, Jan 11 – CFU President Sarwan Boal is the keynote speaker at the annual National Farmers Union convention. The NFU is a coalition of small mostly family farmers, who for the most part do not hire much outside help. Boal talked about Free Trade policies and privatization. [CFU 8th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 17] [Speech to the National Farmers Union Convention]

1988, Feb 28 – The CFU’s Eighth National Convention at the IWA Hall, New Westminster, is attended by 214 delegates, (201 seasonal worker delegates and only one delegate from a year-round unit – Fraser Valley Frosted Foods; also, 12 executive member delegates). Guest speakers BC Federation of Labour President Ken Georgetti; and CLC Director of Organizing Len Nelson. [CFU 8th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; List of Delegates; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions]

 

1988, March 6 to April 10 – The Farmworkers Theatre Tour is a successful series of Punjabi language cultural programmes attended by over 1,000 people at four venues in the Fraser Valley. Vancouver Sath Theatre collective performs two plays, both written by Sadhu Binning & Sukhwant Hundal: A Crop of Poison (premiere); and Picket Line. Also, Paul Binning’s Richmond based Punjabi Arts Association performs bhangra and gidha dances. The tour is funded primarily by The Canada Council of the Arts - Explorations Grant. [Deol Society News Vol.1 No.1, Page 4] [Vancouver Sath : To produce the play 'Picket Line'] [Vancouver Sath : A Crop of Poison]

1988, November – The CFU publishes a 32-page issue of The Farmworker in English that is distributed widely, including at Lower Mainland Sikh temples and mailed to all BC Federation of Labour affiliates. [Farmworker 1988 Vol. 02 No. 01] [CFU Tenth National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions, Page 5]

1988, Nov 04 – Our Common Food - Our Common Struggle is the theme for the CFU’s eighth annual fundraising benefit event attended by 500 people at the Scottish Cultural Centre. Guest speakers: Marion Moses, MD, California specialist in farmworkers health and pesticides; BC Federation of Labour Secretary Treasurer Cliff Andstein; Punjabi songs and bhangra dance performed by Paul Binning’s Richmond Punjabi Arts Association; Music by Julius Fischer’s band Ginger Group. [CFU 9th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; Staff List; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 11] [An Evening with Farmworkers Benefit Dinner and Dance]

 

1989

1989, January - – The CFU’s seventh annual Farmworkers ESL Crusade is launched with ten classes in farmworkers’ homes. “Because of their financial and domestic burdens, the traditional english classes offered in the community are not within the means of the farmworkers, especially the women. As a result, the women have participated enthusiastically in the home front based ESL program. …Volunteer tutors have dedicated their time not only to teaching english, but as well teaching the survival skills, such as getting driver licences, citizenship, learning how to read and write, and most important of all discussing critically the issues of pesticides and farm work. There have also been classes held in two community centers in the Vancouver area, the Sunset and Kensington centers. Approximately 15 men and 15 women farmworkers in the seniors groups have participated. The women's class included not only writing practice but also dialogues around going to the bank, the doctor, and taking the bus. The men's class similarly included these but as well discussions about farmwork and organizing workers. The sessions proved to be most fruitful, in terms of developing english skills and stimulating support for the union.” As reported by the new ESL coordinator Bhavna Bhangu. [CFU 9th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; Staff List; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 12]

1989, Jan 01 – The CFU renews its longest-running collective agreement with Fraser Valley Foods, A Division of Pillsbury Canada Ltd. [Fraser Valley Foods A Division of Pillsbury Canada Ltd and Canadian Farmworkers Union Local No.1 - 1989 Collective Agreement]

1989, March – “Although the WCB classified agriculture as a Class A hazardous industry, its most hazardous classification, farmworkers are still excluded from the WCB Health and Safety Regulations. Last year, the Socred government hired a private firm, Delloite, Haskins and Sells, to conduct a study on whether farmworkers need Health and Safety Regulations. The report released March, 1989. Although we don't agree with everything the report says, we fully agree and appreciate that the report strongly recommends the inclusion of farmworkers under Health and Safety Regulations.” [CFU 9th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; Staff List; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 9]

1989, April 02 – The CFU’s Ninth National Convention at IWA Hall, New Westminster. Guest speakers: BC Federation of Labour Secretary-Treasurer Cliff Andstein; and Canadian Labour Congress Larry Widen. The video premiere of Caught in a World of Pesticides (Punjabi and English versions) are produced by the CFU’s non-profit Deol Agricultural Society. Lunch at the Nanak Sar Temple, Richmond. [CFU 9th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; Staff List; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions]

Convention Report: “Seasonal farmworkers are one of the most difficult groups of workers to organize. They come from all over BC to work in the Fraser Valley and move from crop to crop. There are over 10,000 seasonal farmworkers in the Fraser Valley area and seasonal farmworkers are on the increase in Mission and Abbotsford areas. Although the union dues for seasonal farmworkers are only $25 per year, in our numerous meetings with farmworkers they are telling us that the union dues are too high.” [CFU 9th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; Staff List; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 9]

Convention Report: “Weighing Scales and Minimum Piece Rate: It is the law that all growers must provide accurate weighing scales for weighing picked berries and that all growers pay at least the minimum piece rate set by the government per pound. Each year we find out through personal checks and visits to the field, that a number of growers don't weigh the berries at all; and some who do weigh are not paying the minimum piece rate set by the government. Although the CFU does the spot-checking in the fields every year, it is the responsibility of all the farmworkers or pickers that they demand at least the minimum required payment per pound and keep accurate records of payment and berries picked.” [CFU 9th National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; Staff List; Financial Report; ESL Report; Resolutions, Page 9]

1989, May 6 – Over 1500 CFU members and supporters (60% women farmworkers) protest the Tory federal government’s drastic UIC benefit cutbacks in a rally at Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Georgia Street, Vancouver. [CFU Tenth National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions, Page 5]

1989, Aug 25 – The CFU presents a brief Unemployment Insurance: Submission to the Legislative Committee on Bill C-21 of the Unemployment Insurance Act. An historical overview of the federal UI Act’s discrimination of farmworkers and the inter-connection with the rise of farm labour contractors. Includes proposed amendments to the UI Act. [Unemployment Insurance : Submission to the Legislative Committee on Bill C-21 of the Unemployment Insurance Act]

1989, Nov 01 – The CFU publishes Farmworker Vol.3 No.1, a bilingual magazine-style newspaper (32-pages). Front cover headlines: Injustice Continues For Farmworker Mom; Reports From The Fields. Articles: Farmworkers Protest UIC Cutbacks; CFU launches Campaign for Health & Safety Regulations; Pesticide study conducted by CFU in the Fraser Valley; 'In a Corner' story by Gurwinder Uppal. [Farmworker 1989 Vol. 03 No. 01]

1989, Nov 17 – The CFU’s Ninth Annual Fundraising Benefit is attended by 400 people, at the Scottish Cultural Centre. Guest speakers: Bishop Remi De Roo; BC Federation of Labour President Ken Georgetti; and, IWA National President Jack Munro. MC is Judy Cavanagh and Charan Gill interpreter. IWW volunteers serve the bar. [CFU Tenth National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions, Page 6]

 

1990s

 

 

 

1990

1990, March 31 – The CFU’s non-profit Deol Agricultural Education and Research Society produces the video Caught in a World of Pesticides. See Farmworkers Health Improvement Project-Final Report. [Farmworkers Health Improvement Project - Final Report]

1990, April 06 – The CFU’s Tenth National Convention, at IWA Hall, New Westminster. Guest speakers: BC Federation of Labour President Ken Georgetti and Canadian Labour Congress Larry Widen. Lunch at the Nanak Sar Temple, Richmond. [CFU Tenth National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions]

 

1990, June 13 – The CFU releases an important survey of growers and farmworkers Pesticide Use and Handling in the Fraser Valley Berry Industry. Eighty-nine farmers and 167 farmworkers were interviewed on various aspects of pesticide use on berry farms. Including descriptive accounts of chemical applications. The pesticide Captan was found to be the most widely used chemical in the industry. Another issue is pesticide exposure to children in the fields. [Pesticide Use and Handling in the Fraser Valley Berry Industry]

1990, Oct 26 – The CFU’s tenth anniversary celebration is attended by 500 people at the Scottish Cultural Centre, Vancouver. [Con0002-010]

1990, December – CFU President Sarwan Boal represents the Canadian Labour Congress at the Federal Government’s Pesticide Registration Review Team. Public hearings are held in each province across Canada on the use of pesticides and the CFU opposes the use of dangerous pesticides. The final recommendations of the Review Team are published in December, 1990, where the CFU “strongly oppose many recommendations and put our Minority Report in with the final report.” [CFU Eleventh National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; Staff List, Page 11] [Canadian Labour Congress Minority Report to the Pesticide Registration Review]

 

1991

1991, April 06 – The CFU’s Eleventh National Convention at IWA Hall, New Westminster. Guest speakers: United Food & Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 1518 President Brooke Sundin; and, IWA’s Joe LeClair (President of the New Westminster District & Labour Council). Lunch at the New Westminster Temple. [CFU Eleventh National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; Staff List]

Convention Report: “In terms of actual organizing of the unorganized farms, the problem

is two fold. One with the Socred Government's anti-union legislation it is very hard to keep a farm organized because of easy decertification and second the CFU does not have enough funding to hire full time organizers who will work only in the fields to organize. Last year we could not even publish the Farmworker (newspaper) because we could not raise enough funds, but we kept farmworkers well informed through regular mailing and leafleting in the fields.’ [CFU Eleventh National Convention Documents; including National Executive Report; Agenda; Financial Report; Resolutions; Staff List, Page 10]

1991, Aug 22 – The Canadian Labour Congress informs the CFU that they will no longer be receiving CLC funds. [Canadian Labour Congress - CFU letter not to cut funding; and CFU Progress Report Summer 1991]

 

1992

1992, January – The Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society (PICS) begins the Surrey Farmworker Childcare Project. “Are you a farmworker looking for childcare services for your children?” PICS is a Surrey social service organization founded by Charan Gill–who also co-founded the FWOC, CFU and BCOFR. [Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society (PICS) -Surrey Farmworker Childcare Project]

1992, April – Farmworkers Rights On the Job: Where you can find help if you are not treated fairly. The People's Law School published this bilingual (Punjabi and English) booklet of farm workers legal rights surveys municipal, provincial and federal standards for work, wages, health and safety, pesticide handling and more. [Farmworkers Rights On the Job: Where you can find help if you are not treated fairly]

 

1993

*1993, April 30 – “In 1993 the health and safety regulations were extended to farmworkers. That was when the NDP, under the leadership of Moe Sihota, the Minister of Labour at that time, made sure that farmworkers received all the protections of other workers.” MLA Raj Chouhan quoted in BC Hansard, April 23rd, 2007.

 

1994

*1994 – “In 1994 there was a commission established by the NDP government. It was called the Thompson commission, and they investigated…. They met with farmers, farmworkers, labour contractors and others in the community. They found out that workers were receiving so much exploitation that even the weighing scales in the fields were not calibrated. People who were working on a piece-rate system…. If they were supposed to be picking up 20 pounds of berries, they were paid only for 17 or 16 pounds because the scales were so wrong, so incorrect. The vehicles in which they were transported were very unsafe. Many of these labour contractors had failed to pay workers.” MLA Raj Chouhan quoted in BC Hansard, April 23rd, 2007.

1994, Sept 30 – A Study of Farmworkers in the Small Fruit Industry in the Lower Mainland Region 1994 created by the Matsqui-Abbotsford Community Services Farmworkers' Project (1993-94) is an important summary of findings from 300 to 500 farmworker survey including: Work Force Composition; Crop Industries; Hours of Work; Number of farmworkers in transport vehicles; Washing and toilet facilities; Availability of drinking water and First Aid; Exposure to pesticides; Children accompanied to farms; Child Labour; Awareness of government regulations; Discrimination in workplace; Image of farmworker; Injury rate; WCB claims; etc. Also a list of recommendations for Enforcement; Education; various provincial and federal agencies; Farm working women and children daycare; enforce standardized weigh scales; develop Agricultural Workers Associations; etc. (*Editor’s note: This report represents a change in the style of language when compared to earlier CFU 1980s briefs about farmworkers. For example, this report has little historical reference to previous farmworkers accidents and deaths, and does not refer to farmworkers legislative discrimination as a form of ‘legal racism’.) [A Study of Farmworkers in the Small Fruit Industry in the Lower Mainland Region 1994]

 

1997

*1997 -- “In 1997 the NDP decided to strengthen the workers' rights further, and they established the agricultural compliance team. Under that agricultural compliance team, workers were protected. Officers of the employment standards branch, Workers Compensation Board, motor vehicle branch and also from the federal authorities formed that team. They would go to the roadside and, as well, to the fields to inspect those working conditions and make sure the workers were working in a safe environment.” MLA Raj Chouhan quoted in BC Hansard, April 23rd, 2007.

1997, March 15 – Agricultural Workers Legal Rights & Responsibilities in the Workplace Project - Final Report. A report by the Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society on the lack of enforcement by federal, provincial and municipal governments; rights for agricultural workers; farm labour contracting; record keeping. Recommendations: Employment Insurance (EI); Weight & Measures on farm scales; Employment Standards; Workers Compensation Board Agriculture Regulations; Pesticide Control; Human Rights; Women's Equality; Ministry of Health; Housing Farm Cabins; Farm Labour Contractors. [Agricultural Workers Legal Rights & Responsibilities in the Workplace Project - Final Report]

 

2000s

2009

2009, February – Save Lives of Farmworkers: Implement the Jury's Recommendations before others suffer the same fate. A CFU punjabi-english brochure that lists the jury recommendations from the provincial BC coroner's inquest into the deaths of three farmworkers in an overcrowded farm labour contractors van. The accident at 6:30am on March 7, 2007 happened when 16 women were being transported in a 15-seat van on Highway 1 going to a nearby Chilliwack greenhouse. [Save Lives of Farmworkers: Implement the Jury's Recommendations before others suffer the sama fate]

*These entries are included as informational updates to this chronology; original files are found in BC Hansard (Legislative documents).

 

Office address

  • Aug 1979 to April 1980 - 7705 Sixth Street, Burnaby
  • May 1980 to April 1981 - 7707 Sixth Street, Burnaby
  • Oct 1981, 1982 - 4730 Imperial Street, Burnaby
  • 1986 - 1 – 4725 Kingsway, Burnaby