2014 - No. 61
Defeat the Harper
Government and Its Assault on Canada's Standard of Living!
• Defeat the Harper
Government and Its Assault on Canada's Standard of Living!
• Concentration of Wealth and Power in
Meatpacking Sector - Peggy Morton
• Temporary Foreign Worker
Program -- Monopoly Offensive Against Meatpacking Workers
• "Good Enough to Work -- Good Enough to Stay"
• Harper's Former Macleod MP
Becomes Agri-Tech Lobbyist - Dougal MacDonald
• Twin Highway 63 Now! - George Allen
Macleod Federal By-Election
Defeat the Harper Government and Its Assault on
Canada's Standard of Living!
Federal by-elections taking place in Alberta and
Ontario on June 30 are an opportunity to say No! to the Harper
dictatorship and to monopoly dictate and nation-wrecking. The working
people are deprived of the economic and political power they need to
set the direction of the economy to serve the public interest,
provide solutions to the social and other problems confronting society
and affirm the rights of all. The lack of empowerment in political
affairs reflects a lack of empowerment in the main sectors of the
economy. Decisions on major economic matters in the basic sectors are
made behind the backs of the people. Those
same private interests that control the main sectors of the economy
control the levers of political power. For the people, their lack of
control over the basic economic sectors is reflected in their lack of
control over the public authority.
The largest employer in the riding of Macleod is
the huge U.S. monopoly Cargill, the largest privately owned company in
the world. Cargill is one of only two federally-inspected beef
processors left in Canada, with a 32 per cent share in Canada's beef
industry. It is also one of the biggest, if not the biggest benefactor
in the dismantling of the Canadian Wheat Board.
In fiscal 2013 Cargill claimed profits of $2.31
billion from the added-value created by workers and farmers in Canada
and around the world. This was almost double its profits of $1.17
billion in the previous year. It had total realized value of $136.7
billion showing how vast is its stranglehold on agricultural producers
The massive Cargill beef processing plant located
just outside High River employs 2,000 workers and slaughters and
processes 4,500 cattle every day. The closure of the XL meatpacking
plant in Brooks, Alberta as a result of Escherichia coli (E.
coli) contamination in 2012 brought to the fore the
dangerous consequences of the stranglehold of monopolies like XL and
Cargill on food safety and the health of Canadians, the meatpacking
workers and the farmers who raise beef cattle.
The concentration of ownership and control of the
packing plants and increasingly of the cattle as well by the packing
giants is in contradiction with good environmental practices and a safe
food supply. The monopolies' goal is to transfer wealth from farmers to
themselves, to siphon off as much added-value as they can from farm
production and eventually take over all facets of agriculture, turning
former farmers into wage workers under monopoly control. Since the CWB
single desk was dismantled, Alberta farmers who used to receive 84 per
cent of the realized value of their wheat are now receiving about 40
per cent, with Cargill and other grain monopolies the big winners.
These huge global monopolies have also come to rely more and more on
temporary foreign workers, as a sector of workers stripped of their
civil rights and rights as workers.
The alternative to the Harper dictatorship is a
nation-building project which provides solutions to the problems of
food security and safety, reverses the stranglehold of the monopolies,
and serves Canadian farmers, agricultural workers and workers in food
and livestock processing and defends the public interest.
In this issue, TML is providing information on
conditions facing meatpacking workers, and in particular how the
industry came to be dependent on temporary foreign workers. These
by-elections are an opportunity to put forward our own nation-building
alternative and carry out discussion with our peers
as to how to provide the problems we face with solutions. They present
the working people with an opportunity to say No! to the Harper
Concentration of Wealth and Power
in Meatpacking Sector
in the Macleod by-election
How did the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP)
such a major
part of meatpacking in Canada? The big monopolies Cargill, JBS and
Olymel claim that it is impossible to find Canadians who will work in
meatpacking plants. This makes as much sense as saying that lack of
money is the cause
of poverty. The answer to the explosion of the TFWP can be found in
neo-liberal globalization and annexation of Canada into the United
States of North American Monopolies.
The last 30 years have witnessed a greatly
concentration of ownership and production in meatpacking, leading to a
stranglehold by a few giant global monopolies. These monopolies have
carried out an all-out assault on the living and working conditions of
packinghouse workers, with increasing
reliance on workers deprived even of civil rights and left vulnerable
In the 1980s, the number of U.S. slaughter plants
plunged from more
than 600 to about 170 for cattle and from more than 500 to about 180
for hogs. Today the big four -- Tyson, Cargill, JBS and National Beef
control 80 per cent of all beef processing. A key component of the U.S.
monopoly offensive was
the smashing of the unions, the collectives in defence of the rights of
workers. The monopolies established non-union plants in "right to work"
states, where unions are virtually illegal, and then demanded the
remaining unionized plants compete or be shut down.
Packinghouse workers fought concessions fiercely, waging
involving 40,000 workers from 1983 to 1986. Through plant closures,
long and bitter lockouts and relocation of plants, union membership was
reduced from 50 per cent in 1980 to 21 per cent in 1986. By 1992, wages
across the industry had
been rolled back by 40 per cent, and production speeds doubled. The
packinghouse monopolies then turned to the most marginalized sections
of the working class, including undocumented workers, to fill the
"labour shortage" they had created with their low wages, poor working
conditions and relentless assaults on
the rights of their workers.
In Canada, a similar attack on packinghouse workers was
The bitter 1985 Gainers strike in Edmonton showed the determination of
owners of monopoly capital to drive down wages and the spirit of
resistance of Canadian workers to defend their rights.
Following the 1988 Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement,
Canadian packing plants came under direct attack from the U.S. The
giant U.S. firms in the Canadian and global markets slashed wages by 40
per cent using the excuse of competition under free trade.
Provincial governments in western Canada organized a
expansion of livestock production on factory farms and used
pay-the-rich schemes to hand over millions to the meatpacking
monopolies to close older plants in eastern Canada and major western
cities, while relocating to rural areas in the western
provinces. In Manitoba for example, hog production was increased by 50
per cent from 1996 to 2001 aimed at global markets, with subsidies
provided by the Manitoba government. Maple Leaf Packers opened a new
pork plant in Brandon and imposed an $8 per hour starting wage, and
then used that situation to
extort 40 per cent wage cuts from workers across the country. Three
years after driving the wages at its Brandon plant far below the
Canadian standard, Maple Leaf applied for work permits for temporary
foreign workers, citing "labour shortages" as the reason.
New plants were also built in Alberta, including one by
Brooks, later sold to Neilson Brothers and now owned by the Brazilian
monopoly JBS following the E. coli
scandal. The Quebec monopoly Olymel
built a huge modern plant in Red Deer with 1,800 workers and closed
plants in Quebec. Then
using the very real threat of transferring production out west extorted
30 per cent wage cuts from Quebec workers.
Temporary Foreign Worker Program --
Against Meatpacking Workers
In 1978, 17 medium-sized, federally-inspected beef
were located throughout Alberta. Today only two are left -- Lakeside
Packers in Brooks owned by Brazilian global monopoly JBS, and Cargill's
High River plant. Those two big plants have been consciously located
outside major cities where a
large workforce is not available. Almost all new workers have to be
brought to the community. Those plants also began to claim labour
shortages to obtain permits to import temporary foreign workers.
is how the North American meatpacking industry in both the United
States and Canada came to rely on a state-organized workforce that is
largely deprived of its civil and worker rights. In the U.S., this has
been accomplished mainly through the creation of a large sector of
undocumented workers and refugees,
against whom the state increasingly uses direct threats of deportation
and violence to keep them in a vulnerable position. In Canada, the
mechanism has been the state-organized Temporary Foreign Worker
Program, which the Harper dictatorship has greatly expanded.
While driving down wages and working conditions, these
monopolies have received many handouts from the federal and provincial
pay-the-rich schemes. The state payments have been so great that the
amount would have been sufficient to purchase at least one of the two
major plants for operation as a
worker-farmer co-operative or public enterprise.
For example, the Harper dictatorship paid the rich
million through its Slaughter Improvement Program from 2009 to 2012
using a murky concept of "conditionally repayable loans." Repayment
depends on profitability; likely meaning they do not have to be repaid
at all, as accounting is under private
control. Beef producers Lakeside and Cargill have received more than
$70 million from the Alberta government since 2003.
The fraud of a labour shortage is nowhere more clearly
exposed as in
the meatpacking industry. The active intervention of the state to
expand the labour market globally and use vulnerable temporary foreign
workers has allowed the monopolies like Cargill to seize ever larger
amounts of the wealth created by
the workers and farmers. While these private monopoly interests were
handed millions in pay-the-rich schemes, the Harper dictatorship has
carried out extensive wrecking and assaults on Canadian farmers, such
as the destruction of the Canadian Wheat Board in the service of
private monopoly interests.
Workers and farmers must think carefully about the
direction of the
economy and what favours their interests and the general interests of
society. The present direction towards the concentration of wealth and
political power in the hands of a few is unsustainable. These
monopolies must be restricted and deprived
of their power to trample on the rights of the people.
A nation-building movement to strengthen food security
starts with a defence of the rights of Canadian farmers. Such a
nation-building project would ensure wages, benefits and pensions for
workers in agriculture and meatpacking commensurate with the hard work
they do and the important contribution
they make to society. A nation-building project begins with the ending
of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and full status as permanent
residents and immigrants accorded to all workers now in Canada.
Our Security and Future Depend on the
Fight for the Rights of All
in Opposition to Monopoly Right!
Defeat Harper in Macleod!
"Good Enough to Work -- Good Enough to Stay"
The Meat Council of Canada, which represents the
meatpacking monopolies, claims that it will face a severe labour
if it cannot continue to rely on temporary foreign workers,
particularly at Canada's two main beef plants both located in Alberta
the JBS Canada plant in Brooks and Cargill in High River.
According to its self-serving view, this will make it difficult for
meat plants to "remain sustainable." The council threatens that without
temporary foreign workers to exploit, the beef monopolies will export
more live cattle to the U.S. for slaughter and processing.
The rapacious foreign
monopolies, which completely
control beef slaughter and processing in Canada, are demanding that the
Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) continue so they can claim an
ever larger share of the value the workers and farmers produce. For
example, wages at the Cargill plant are
only 63 per cent of the average manufacturing wage in Alberta and
working conditions are arguably much tougher than most other jobs.
Two thousand workers toil at the Cargill plant located
just outside High River, 57 kilometres from Calgary in the federal
riding of Macleod. The town has a population of about 13,000. The
Canada Job Bank advertises 250 jobs at the Cargill plant. Job
interviews are held twice a day, every weekday, month in
and month out with no appointment needed. But this demand has not
forced the Cargill monopoly to raise the wage and improve working
conditions to attract Canadian workers because the Harper government
provides a steady stream of vulnerable temporary workers under the
TFWP. Thousands of temporary foreign
workers have come to work at the Cargill plant alone since the program
was expanded, first by the Liberals and then by the Harper government.
Meatpacking plants have always been a difficult work
environment. Today, meatpacking plants are known for break-neck line
speeds and inhuman working conditions, a high rate of repetitive strain
injuries, increased health risks from the direct exposure to pathogens
lower than average manufacturing wages.
Meatpacking used to be one of the highest paid
manufacturing industries in Alberta but the monopolies directly aided
by governments using such manoeuvres as the TFWP and other anti-worker
tactics have forced down wages below the average. In May 2014, the
average hourly wage for manufacturing in Alberta
was $27.33, but the starting wage at the Cargill beef slaughter and
processing plant in High River, Alberta is only $17.30 an hour, with a
top rate of $19.00 for an experienced industrial butcher.
United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1118,
which represents the workers at Cargill has negotiated unique clauses
in the collective agreement that require the employer to make an
application under the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program (AINP) for
permanent residency for all temporary
foreign workers it hires. UFCW Local 1118 President Albert Johnson
reports that up to 2,500 of the Local's 4,300 members are temporary
foreign workers who either have become permanent residents or have
applied. Local 1118 has actively worked to defend temporary foreign
workers under the principle, "Good
Enough to Work -- Good Enough to Stay."
By requiring the employer
to support an application for
a permanent residency card for all temporary foreign workers in the
represents, UFCW has blocked the employer from forcing workers within
the plant to compete with one another for permanent residency
nominations. Still, the
monopolies such as Cargill, who rely heavily on temporary
foreign workers, have a huge club they hold over the workers' heads, as
the competition for permanent residency status extends well beyond the
the province. With 85,000 temporary foreign workers now working in
Alberta and a quota of only 5,000 nominees accepted annually for
permanent residency under the
AINP, fewer and fewer workers are successful in their applications.
Under current rules, workers who are not accepted under the AINP will
not be able to stay in Canada. Temporary foreign workers who were
working in Canada in 2011 when the new rules went into effect will have
to leave by 2015 and return to
their homelands. They will not be eligible to return to Canada for
another four years.
Johnson said. "The answer to this whole foreign worker
issue is not temporary foreign workers. It's permanent immigration."
Workers across Canada must step up their struggle in
defence of the rights of all. All undocumented and temporary foreign
workers must have immediate access to permanent residency status to
precarious and vulnerable situation imposed on them by arbitrary
immigration regulations and to enable these workers to
participate fully in the defence and political organizations of the
working class. As part of this struggle, workers must expose the
anti-worker schemes that are being concocted and imposed under the
fraud of a "labour shortage." It is up to the workers to determine if
there is a labour shortage in a sector and how
it should be filled, and they must not allow the pretext of a labour
shortage to be used to drive down the working and living conditions in
the sector and put any worker in a vulnerable position.
Harper's Former Macleod MP Becomes
The upcoming federal by-election in the Macleod riding
of southern Alberta will be held on June 30, due to the November
2013 resignation of the Conservative Party incumbent Ted Menzies.
Menzies, who held the riding since 2004, served as Parliamentary
Secretary to the Minister of Finance and then
as Minister of State for Finance. He jumped the Harper ship to become
President and CEO of Crop Life Canada, beginning on January 1. Crop
Life Canada is one of the eight regional groups of Crop Life
International, the giant lobbying agency for the world's largest
private agricultural biotechnology monopolies.
These include BASF, Bayer, Dow, DuPont, FMC, Monsanto, Sumitomo, and
Syngenta, collectively known as "Big Ag."
Many of the "Big Ag" monopolies that Menzies now
promotes have been singled out by the people of the world as amongst
the most anti-people, anti-earth corporations on the entire planet.
Just to give one example, Monsanto, the world's leading producer of
genetically modified seeds, is the subject of an annual
world-wide march against its nefarious practices, held again this year
on May 24. Monsanto pioneered the use of biological patents of its seed
products, which conflicts directly with farmers' customary practices to
save, reuse, share and develop plant varieties. Monsanto uses genetic
restriction technology, known
as "terminator technology," to prevent farmers from planting seeds they
harvest, requiring them to repurchase Monsanto seed for every planting.
Several Monsanto directors work for the Obama government, which, on May
25, 2013, signed the Monsanto
Protection Act into law, giving U.S.
companies dealing with
genetically engineered seeds immunity from prosecution in U.S. federal
The Big Ag monopolies that Menzies represents also have
very sinister pasts. BASF and Bayer were part of the I.G. Farben
monopoly, which backed Hitler and supplied the cyanide gas to
exterminate prisoners held in Nazi concentration camps. During the
criminal U.S. war against Viet Nam, Dow manufactured
napalm, while both Dow and Monsanto made and supplied the U.S.
aggressors with the defoliant Agent Orange, whose nefarious effects
still linger in Viet Nam with thousands of annual infant deformities
other problems. DuPont was the world's top manufacturer of explosives
and financed home-grown U.S. fascist
groups during the 1930s and 1940s, as well as collaborated with I.G.
Farben during the Second World War. DuPont-controlled General Motors
owned Opel, which manufactured military equipment that the Nazi
Wehrmacht used to invade Europe and the Soviet Union. Sumitomo is one
of the largest zaibatsu
financial-industrial conglomerates) that financed and promoted Japanese
militarism prior to and during the Second World War and continue their
anti-worker anti-social activities to this day under the protection of
the U.S. military occupation.
Menzies' recent move into the private sector is one more
example of how the Harperites move freely back and forth between
government and industry solely in order to represent the interests of
the private monopolies. When the Harperites are in their cozy corporate
offices, before or after they occupy parliamentary
seats, they line the pockets of the rich at the expense of the people
and economy. As MPs, they ensure that government legislation upholds
monopoly right and opposes public right. On October 26, 2011, Menzies
was quoted in the Okotoks Western
Wheel as fully supporting the Harper
dictatorship's arbitrary legislation
to serve the private monopolies by wrecking the Canadian Wheat Board
(CWB), even though this move was opposed by the majority of farmers.
Not surprisingly, prior to his election, Menzies was involved with the
private agri-monopoly backed anti-CWB group, Western Canadian Wheat
Growers Association (WCWGA).
On May 14, WCWGA signed an international accord pushing for
commercialization of genetically modified wheat. In 2004, Canadian
wheat farmers, the CWB, and their allies resolutely blocked Monsanto
from introducing genetically modified wheat into Canada.
The Macleod by-election is an opportunity for workers,
farmers and youth to say No!
to Menzies and his Big Ag cronies
and the anti-social nation-wrecking they are engaged in by voting to
Harper's replacement MP candidate John Barlow.
Fort McMurray-Athabasca By-Election
Twin Highway 63 Now!
On February 19, two more people died in a fiery
crash on the very dangerous Alberta Provincial Highway 63, which lies
within the Fort McMurray-Athabasca riding where the June 30
federal by-election will take place. Two semi-trailer trucks crashed
head-on while navigating the narrow two-lane
highway about 70 kilometres south of Fort McMurray. One truck was
diesel fuel and burst into flames. Both drivers were killed in the
crash. Another five vehicles hit the ditch to avoid the accident but no
one else was hurt.
Highway 63 runs 400 kilometres south-north, from
of the hamlet of Radway (70 kilometres northeast of Edmonton) through
McMurray and the Athabasca oil sands, terminating 54 kilometres north
McMurray near Fort McKay. The highway is only two lanes wide but every
year the volume of traffic increases
due to the expanding oil sands industry. The continuous heavy traffic
a restricted space has led to rising numbers of accidents, fatalities,
and injuries, resulting in Highway 63 being nicknamed, the "Highway of
Death" or "Suicide 63."
CBC News reported that from 2001 to 2005 alone, over
1,000 crashes occurred on Highway 63 in which 25 people were killed and
257 others were injured. The Tyee reported on May 5, 2012,
that the dead have increased from an average of five workers a year
(2001-2005) to nine a year (2007-2012),
along with hundreds of injuries. According to the Edmonton Journal
base, there were 129 fatalities from January 1999 to the end of
April 2012. The worst crash to date on April 27, 2012 killed seven
people from three different families. Eight days later on Saturday, May
5, 2012, more
than 2,000 people rallied in Fort McMurray to mourn the loss of human
life and to demand that the entire highway be twinned.
The frustrated demand for twinning has a long history.
After years of constant public pressure, the provincial government
finally announced in February 2006 that it would begin twinning the
two-lane portion of the highway to a four-lane divided standard from
Atmore, 43 kilometres west of Lac la Biche to just south
of Fort McMurray, a distance of 240 kilometres. The federal government
pledged $150 million for the estimated $320 million project. When the
twinning began in 2006, the provincial government announced that the
job would be completed by 2011. But three years beyond that date, only
about 20 per cent or 48 kilometres has been completed. The provincial
government has now doubled the
estimated time required to finish the present twinning project of just
240 kilometres with the new completion date announced as 2016.
The government claims that it cannot go any faster
because of the problems of building a road over muskeg. This would be
laughable if not so tragic. The entire Alaska Highway of 2,700
kilometres was built over muskeg during the Second World War in six
months, and that was more than 70 years ago using much
less sophisticated equipment and materials. Clearly, it is not the way
to renovate Highway 63 that is missing, but the political will to do
the job in a timely manner.
In addition to its chronic
foot-dragging on the twinning
project, the provincial government's response to the many tragedies on
Highway 63 can only be described as cynical. For example, following the
May 5, 2012 mass protest, the government doubled the number of police
monitoring highway traffic. The police
handed out many tickets for highway infractions, accompanied by the
usual barrage of state propaganda that continues to suggest
misleadingly that the accidents on Highway 63 have been mainly caused
by poor driving and not by the dangerous conditions of the highway
The overwhelming sentiment of the people of Fort
McMurray, the workers who drive Highway 63 to and from work in the oil
sands, their families, and their unions is that the long-standing
demand to turn the entire Highway 63 into a four-lane highway must be
immediately implemented. Every day thousands
of tanker trucks, semi-trailer trucks, logging trucks, buses, and cars
navigate the narrow two-lane highway, which was built when oil sands
projects were still in the experimental stage. Vehicles carrying
extra-wide loads of huge pieces of oil sands equipment such as massive
"super-vessels" add to the congestion and
The Athabasca oil sands resources, which belong to the
people and the First Nations on whose lands the resources are found,
are handed over to the mainly foreign-owned oil monopolies for a song.
Yet the provincial government does not require the owners of capital
who reap enormous profits to pay a cent
to build the infrastructure required for the safety and well-being of
the workers who actually produce the wealth. It is one more proof that
the people need to establish their own public control over the energy
resources to make sure that their development serves the needs of the
people of Alberta and of Canada as
Workers in the oil sands come from communities across
the country and the loss of life due to highway accidents is directly
felt in those far-flung places. Working people across the country are
already signing the petition to twin Highway 63. In this way, they are
showing that Canadians stand as one in demanding
that governments have a social responsibility to ensure the safety and
well-being of workers and all Canadians on and off the job.
One way to support the demand to twin Highway 63 now, is
to go to www.twin63now.ca and sign the
petition, which has exceeded
21,000 signatures. Another way is to organize and participate in
rallies in support of accelerating the twinning project. During the
June 30 by-election, voters in the Fort
McMurray-Athabasca riding can show their disgust for the Harper
Conservatives, who have blocked the popular will of the people who live
in work in the region and other Canadians across the country to Twin
Highway 63 Now!
Vote No to the Harper Candidate!
Stonewalling of the Popular Will in Ottawa and Edmonton!