On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Tzazná Miranda Leal. She is a long-time organizer with migrant workers, and she has been centrally involved in the recent founding of this country’s first-ever national coalition of migrant worker organizations: the Coalition for Migrant Worker Rights Canada.
Migrant workers are people whom the Canadian state grants entry into Canada for a limited period of time to do a specified kind of work. There are high-status versions as well, but most — and those that are the focus of today’s show — are brought here, mostly from the Global South, to do low-status, low-wage work on farms, caring for children, in the service industry, in the fisheries, in factories, and much more. Migrant workers have been part of Canadian society for at least five decades, but the total number and the range of kinds of work that they are brought to Canada to do has expanded significantly in the last 20 years.
Often, migrant worker programs are framed as being about meeting labour market needs. But even a cursory look at the way that such programs work make it clear that really what they are about is benefiting employers by using state practices to push a pool of working people into conditions that make them highly vulnerable and easily exploitable. The rules vary somewhat from program to program, but the end result is mostly workers who are, by law, forced into tight dependence on a single employer, deprived of rights that other workers in Canada take for granted, and made extremely vulnerable to deportation so it is very difficult for them to insist on enforcement of the rights they do have and to struggle for justice. Moreover, even other social movements in Canada sometimes do a poor job of standing in solidarity with migrant workers, with certain elements in the mainstream labour movement being particularly prone to taking positions that reinforce the injustices faced by migrant workers.
There are, however, many organizations across the country — mostly grassroots, largely unfunded, and local or sectoral or provincial in scope — that organize or otherwise work directly with migrant workers to fight for rights and justice. For years, these organizations have communicated and coordinated with each other, and occasionally talked about forming a national organization. And this year, with the aim of intervening in the federal election and acting to further justice for migrant workers in whatever new situation emerged after the election, the Coalition for Migrant Worker Rights Canada was founded.
Tzazna Miranda Leal talks with me about the struggles of migrant workers, about the Coalition for Migrant Worker Rights Canada, and about their vision for a more just future for migrant workers.
Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.
Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.