The Canadian food industry is notable for its dependence on Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) and Temporary Foreign Worker Program in accordance with which numerous migrant workers arrive in the country (Balkisson 2016).
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However, migrant labor issues are often controversial. While justice is recognized as the main principle of employment, the reality is far from being perfect. Labor conditions frequently become the subject of concern. In order to solve the pressing problem, it is necessary to understand its roots and apply theoretical knowledge to practice. One of the possible frameworks is the Marxist theory. In this paper, the article describing the present-day situation in employment and migrant farm workers’ rights is examined through the key points of Marxism: capitalist profit motive, dehumanization of work, and urge for changes. The labor issue under analysis is migrant labor.
In this article, Balkissoon (2016) draws readers’ attention to the Canadian farmers’ markets, the harvest season, and migrant workers the overwhelming majority of which are from Mexico, Jamaica, and other Caribbean countries. She states that SAWP has become one of the most popular solutions to collect the necessary labor power. The program has been used for 50 years. Intended to address the labor shortage in periods when farms needed the additional workforce, SAWP and Temporary Foreign Workers de facto pertain to the long-term demand.
Despite the declared success, the author insists, some of the conditions, such as staying with one employer during the whole program or lack of contact with families are alarming; living conditions are sometimes appalling. While similar programs in Britain and Spain provide the opportunity to apply for residency and stay with one’s family, the path to citizenship for SAWP migrant workers is difficult (Balkissoon, 2016). In conclusion, the author emphasizes that it is significant to improve the situation.
Labor Issue Analysis
As the Marxist theory suggests, the relations of production within the capitalist environment are exploitative: property possessors and their representatives are characterized by considerable power, high social status, and wealth (Krahn, Hughes, & Lowe, 2014). In comparison, hired workers have fewer opportunities. Speaking about the present-day situation in migrant farming in Canada, one can explain the problems using some issues of the theory.
Marx believed that the capitalist profit motive was in conflict with workers’ interests in fair wages, better employment terms, and living standards (Krahn, Hughes, & Lowe, 2014). This idea may be discussed in the context of the differences between the migrant workers’ desires for adequate conditions and harsh reality. The author of the article points out that there are multiple difficulties related to workers’ rights.
They have to abandon their families for a long time, and they have neither the immigrant status nor a path to Canadian citizenship; moreover, injured people are only “medically repatriated” to their resident countries: there is no medical guarantees and pensions for them (Balkissoon, 2016). Thus, employers are not anxious about employees’ rights.
As for work dehumanization, Marx argued that workers lost control over how they had their work done, and the worker-possessor relationship caused it (Krahn, Hughes, & Lowe, 2014). In other words, it is the inequality that leads to the dissatisfaction because work becomes less personalized. In relation to the temporary foreign workers, it is probably the organization that becomes the stumbling block. People might feel helpless because they cannot change the conditions. What facilitates this perception is the prohibition to leave the employer and the inability to live with one’s family. Work becomes something impersonal. Besides, health concerns are also frequent. Consequently, a person might feel that an employer does not perceive them as individuals and treats them like machines.
Finally, it is important to say that the debates concerning work organization and management enhancement, the need for unions and labor laws, and the future of work are the result of the Marxist theory influence (Krahn, Hughes, & Lowe, 2014). Although it is not always explicit, many agencies, as well as individual activists, refer to these issues. In the present article, Jenna Hennebry, the director of the International Migrant Research Centre at Wilfrid Laurier University, the activist group Justicia for Migrant Workers, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and the Globe and Mail reporters are named as the protectors of migrant workers’ rights in a wide range of contexts (Balkissoon, 2016).
The author of the article is also the supporter of migrant labor improvement. The fact that non-profit companies and social leaders draw attention to these problems while the authorities and business owners (for instance, Anthony Cervini, the owner of Fresh Ontario Greenhouse Vegetables) report on the great success in this sphere illustrates this idea.
To sum it up, the Marxist theory is applicable to the present-day situation. The example of the Canadian food industry, particularly migrant labor, proves that the tendencies correlate with some points of the theory. While employers flourish, workers have to deal with the unjust and dehumanizing conditions. As a result, social activists and non-commercial organizations raise this point and demand changes for the better.
Balkissoon, D. (2016). Migrant farm workers deserve better from Canada. The Globe and Mail. Web.
Krahn, H., Hughes, K. D., & Lowe, G. S. (2014). Work, industry, and Canadian society (7th ed.). Toronto, ON: Nelson College Indigenous.