For the second year in a row, OPSEU/SEFPO’s Coalition of Racialized Workers (CoRW) organized meal distributions to migrant workers over the holidays in Region 1. They saw that the pandemic hit certain communities harder than other with Windsor/Essex being one of the hardest hit areas in Ontario. It is also home to a community that has the highest population of migrant workers in the province.
The CoRW and the OPSEU/SEFPO Provincial Human Rights Committee (PHRC) partnered with both the Windsor West Indian Association and Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) on this initiative. It’s been an ongoing partnership between these groups that started in 2018.
The ongoing COVID restrictions lead to the idea of preparing meals for migrants who were in quarantine. This blossomed into the hot meals that were culturally appropriate to migrant workers in the community.
“We are very proud of the work our members continue to do to address inequities. As a Union that prides itself in fighting for social justice, it’s not surprising that our members roll up their sleeves and every chance they get work to make our communities better.” said OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren ‘Smokey’ Thomas.
“Over the last two years, we continue to see the most vulnerable in our communities further marginalized and affected by COVID-19” said Elizabeth Ha, Chair of the PHRC.
“We want to support these workers who are here to feed our community, build our economy, and who ae essential workers. They are here working during the holiday, away from their families.” she added.
Canada continues to rely on migrant workers to work in fields, orchards, farms and greenhouses across the country. Each year, nearly 60,000 workers come to help toil the land and more than one third of those workers are right here in Ontario, thousands of miles away from their homes and loved ones.
OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida says migrant workers contribute so much to our communities.
“I grew up on a farm and know from personal experience the kind of backbreaking work it takes to put food on our tables, said Almeida. “It is important that we support these workers and initiatives like this led by our members. It’s a small way to show our appreciation for all they do and give back to our communities.”
“We know how important it is to have a sense of home around the holidays and so it was important to provide culturally appropriate meals to the people who feed our communities” said Peter Thompson, Chair of the CoRW. “This year and with the support of OPSEU/SEFPO, we were able to provide meals for 600 workers” he added.
The CoRW and PHRC is looking to support this effort on an annual basis given the impact it has had on migrant workers and the community at large.