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Highline Mushrooms Agricultural Workers Join UFCW Canada

July 3, 2024

On June 18, about 170 migrant agricultural workers at four Highline Mushrooms factory farms in Abbotsford, B.C., joined UFCW Local 1518.  

This is the first group of migrant agricultural workers in Canada to collectively exercise their fundamental right to join a union for many years, and this victory reflects Highline Mushrooms workers’ courage and determination. The key concerns for the workers at Highline Mushrooms are improving health and safety, ensuring a safe and fair work environment, being treated with dignity and respect, and the ability to bargain collectively.

Migrant agricultural workers are some of the most vulnerable workers in Canada, unprotected while working for international agrifood conglomerates that are worth billions. The mushroom industry is built on the labor of the migrant agricultural workers who staff the farms, working long, grueling hours, being paid by the piece or making barely over minimum wage. Workers can be fired and deported back to their home countries for minor reasons, with little to no protection or recourse. The victory at Highline Mushrooms farms is a major step forward to changing the industry.

“This victory is important because the union, UFCW 1518, now represents us, and we now have the support and ability to truly assert our rights as migrant workers,” said Ulises, a Highline Mushrooms worker. “With the support of our union, the UFCW, we will achieve greater dignity and respect, better working conditions, proper PPE, and more.”

“Congratulations to our newest UFCW 1518 members at Highline Mushrooms for asserting their rights and demanding that their voices are heard,” said UFCW Local 1518 President Patrick Johnson. “These workers are an essential part of the B.C. workforce and community. We look forward to sitting down with the employer as soon as possible to negotiate a fair collective agreement.”

Through a complex corporate structure, Highline Mushrooms is a subsidiary of the Japanese-owned Sumitomo conglomerate, which also owns the agri-food giant Fyffes. The company has pledged to defend human and labor rights in its business principles, including core promises about respecting the fundamental labor rights of workers based on freedom of association as defined by the International Labour Organization.

“Labor rights are human rights, and we are proud to welcome Highline Mushrooms workers into our UFCW family,” said National President of UFCW Canada Shawn Haggerty. “We are also looking forward to developing a constructive relationship with Highline and its parent company Sumitomo-Fyffes as social partners committed to advancing decent work and socially sustainable supply chains for the agrifood sector.”

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