Defying Expectations

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The Case of UFCW Local 401

by Jason Foster

UFCW members on the picket line

In October 2005, Jason Foster, then a staff member of the Alberta Federation of Labour, was walking a picket line outside Lakeside Packers in Brooks, Alberta with the members of local 401. It was a first contract strike. And although the employees of the meat-packing plant — many of whom were immigrants and refugees — had chosen an unlikely partner in the United Food and Commercial Workers local, the newly formed alliance allowed the workers to stand their ground for a three-week strike that ended in the defeat of the notoriously anti-union company, Tyson Foods.

It was but one example of a wide range of industries and occupations that local 401 organized over the last twenty years.

In this study of UFCW 401, Foster investigates a union that has had remarkable success organizing a group of workers that North American unions often struggle to reach: immigrants, women, and youth. By examining not only the actions and behaviour of the local’s leadership and its members but also the narrative that accompanied the renewal of the union, Foster shows that both were essential components to legitimizing the leadership’s exercise of power and its unconventional organizing forces.

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Publisher: Athabasca University Press
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About the Author

jason Foster is  Assistant Professor, Human Resources and Labour Relations, Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies. View Jason's faculty page.


Farm Workers in Western Canada

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Injustices and Activism

red barn on Prairie with storm in background

Edited by Shirley A. McDonald and Bob Barnetson

Bill 6, the government of Alberta’s contentious farm workers’ safety legislation, sparked public debate as no other legislation has done in recent years. The Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act provides a right to work safely and a compensation system for those killed or injured at work, similar to other provinces.

In nine essays, contributors to Farm Workers in Western Canada place this legislation in context. They look at the origins, work conditions, and precarious lives of farm workers in terms of larger historical forces such as colonialism, land rights, and racism. They also examine how the rights and privileges of farm workers, including seasonal and temporary foreign workers, conflict with those of their employers, and reveal the barriers many face by being excluded from most statutory employment laws, sometimes in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Contributors:

Gianna Argento, Bob Barnetson, Michael J. Broadway, Jill Bucklaschuk, Delna Contractor, Darlene A. Dunlop, Brynna Hambly (Takasugi), Zane Hamm, Paul Kennett, Jennifer Koshan, C.F. Andrew Lau, J. Graham Martinelli, Shirley A. McDonald, Robin C. McIntyre, Nelson Medeiros, Kerry Preibisch, Heidi Rolfe, Patricia Tomic, Ricardo Trumper, and Kay Elizabeth Turner.

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Publisher: The University of Alberta Press
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The Political Economy of Workplace Injury in Canada

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by Bob Barnetson

book cover showing sympathy flowers

Workplace injuries are common, avoidable, and unacceptable. The Political Economy of Workplace Injury in Canada reveals how employers and governments engage in ineffective injury prevention efforts, intervening only when necessary to maintain the standard legitimacy. Dr. Bob Barnetson sheds light on this faulty system, highlighting the way in which employers create dangerous work environments yet pour billions of dollars into compensation and treatment. Examining this dynamic clarifies the way in which production costs are passed on to workers in the form of workplace injuries.

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Publisher: Athabasca University Press
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About the Author

Bob Barnetson is a Professor of Labour Relations and Chair of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies.


Health and Safety in Canadian Workplaces

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by Bob Barnetson, Jason Foster

worker climbing concrete tower

Workplace injuries happen every day and can profoundly affect workers, their families, and the communities in which they live. This textbook is for workers and students looking for an introduction to injury prevention on the job. It offers an extensive overview of central occupational health and safety (OHS) concepts and practices and provides practical suggestions for health and safety advocacy. Foster and Barnetson bring the field into the twenty-first century by including discussions of how precarious employment, gender, and ill-health can be better handled in Canadian OHS.

Although they address the gendered and racialized dimensions of new work processes and structures in contemporary workplaces, Foster and Barnetson contend that the practice of occupational health and safety can only be understood if we acknowledge that workers and employers have conflicting interests. Who identifies what workplace hazards should be controlled is therefore a product of the broader political economy of employment and one that should be well understood by those working in the field.

Published:
Publisher: Athabasca University Press
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About the Authors

Bob Barnetson

Bob Barnetson is a Professor of Labour Relations and Chair of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies.


Jason Foster

jason Foster is  Assistant Professor, Human Resources and Labour Relations, Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies. View Jason's faculty page.