“We were a social movement as well"
The Canadian Farmworkers Union in British Columbia, 1979—1983
Keywords:agriculture, labour unions, strikes and lockouts, South Asians
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, South Asian farmworkers from across the Lower Mainland organized the Canadian Farmworkers’ Union (CFU). Along with the union’s organizing agenda aimed at improving labour conditions for workers on farms and in greenhouses, the CFU pushed a social agenda to improve the social lives of their members. This social agenda included English language classes and operating a Farmworkers Service Centre in New Westminster, British Columbia. Finding the balance between existing as a “traditional trade union,” and as a “social movement,” would plague the financial existence of the CFU in British Columbia, but the story of the CFU’s fight for more than just improved labor conditions illuminates the innovative ways unorganized, racialized farmworkers adapted unionism to meet the needs of its members during a period of growing austerity in British Columbia.