Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

Labour Struggles for Workplace Justice: Migrant and Immigrant Worker Organizing in Canada

Document type Article
Author Thomas, Mark
Author Choudry, Aziz
Journal Journal of Industrial Relations
Volume 55
Date 2013
ISSN 0022-1856, 1472-9296
Pages 212-226


This article explores the dynamics of labour organizing among migrant and immigrant workers in Canada, focusing on two case studies: first, recent efforts to organize migrant farmworkers in the Seasonal Agricultural Workers’ Program; and, second, the work of the Immigrant Workers’ Centre in Montreal. The Seasonal Agricultural Workers’ Program, which employs workers from Mexico and Caribbean countries, is often viewed by policymakers and employers as an example of ‘best practices’ in migration policy. Yet workers in the program experience seasonal employment characterized by long hours and low wages, and are exempt from many basic labour standards. The Immigrant Workers’ Centre formed in 2000 to provide a safe place for migrant and racialized immigrant workers to come together around problems in their workplaces. Through these case studies, we examine labour organization efforts including advocacy and grassroots organizing through the Immigrant Workers’ Centre and legal challenges attempting to secure recognition of freedom of association rights for farmworkers. The article explores the ‘limits and possibilities’ of these strategies, and concludes by assessing the implications for labour organizing among the growing numbers of migrant and immigrant workers employed in a wide range of low-wage, low-security occupations due to the recent expansion of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program.