Sunday, February 25, 2007

Padrone Me Is This Alberta

The boom that is bringing thousands of temporary foreign workers to Alberta is also attracting recruiters hoping to profit from the demand. Some recruiters may be breaking the rules by charging foreign workers for the privilege of earning a paycheque in Alberta.

It's called Padronism and it's the soure of old world Immigration to North America in the fin de sicle of the 19th Cnetury and the early years of last Century.

Rules? Rules? What rules, in Alberta we have no stinking rules for business. That's why the government got out of the business of regulating business.

We got into a situation where just anybody hangs up a shingle and calls themselves a consultant, simply by virtue of the fact they may know some people abroad and think that they can link them to employers," said Edmonton Castle Downs MLA Thomas Lukaszuk.

Even worse, says the Alberta Federation of Labour, no one is enforcing the law, creating a situation ripe for exploitation. "It's like the Wild West," said AFL president Gil McGowan. "We need a sheriff to bring some order to the situation. Unfortunately, neither our federal or provincial governments seem willing to put on the badge."

And we wouldn't be having a labour shortage if we did not have an unregulated, unplanned development boom in Fort McMurray.

Unlike his counterparts in Ottawa and Victoria, Stelmach doesn't see the political potential in going green. On the contrary, he's using the issue to titillate the NEP base, a la Ralph Klein. Speaking in downtown Calgary this week, Stelmach said Alberta is not prepared to make any grand sacrifices or interventions to cut greenhouse gas emissions. "My government does not believe in interfering in the free marketplace," he said.

In Alberta and BC the new internal Labour Immigration agreement (TILMA) opens up both provinces to influxes of workers not just from their respective provinces but from across North America because it is NAFTA compliant.

And with our new Federal Minister of Immigration and Human Resoucrces being pro-temporary workers, is allowing an extension of two years to work in Canada.

While the move was applauded by stressed western Canadian businesses desperate for foreign workers, it was panned by labour leaders worried about Canadians' jobs and workers' rights.

"Employers shouldn't be put in the driver's seat when it comes to who gets into the country, because their interests aren't necessarily in line with the broader Canadian public," said Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.

The new temporary worker extension was announced the same day that the Business Councils of North America met with Mexican, Canadian and American politicians in Ottawa to discuss the North American Security and Prosperity treaty. Meetings which were held in secret.

This exploitation will continue until these workers are unionized.

It is forward to the past, backwards to the future.

Montreal's King of Italian Labour: A Case Study of Padronism

Robert F. Harney


"Montreal's King of Italian Labour" concerns the activities of Montreal padrone, Antonio Cordasco, who served as an intermediary between Canadian big business and Italian migrant labour during the early part of the century, in relation to the nature of padronism itself. The padrone's activities extended both along the communications network between European labour and North American industry and into many aspects of Italian life in Canada. Although the dishonesty and corruption of the padrone are clear, it is also clear that it was not the migrant labourers who objected to his work, or indeed, when it suited them, the Canadian government itself. Big business in Canada, backed by the government, needed transient labour and it was the actual immigrant policy of the Canadian government, the wish to make use of Italian labour but to prevent it from turning into permanent immigration, which made Cordasco's role possible. The migrant labourers, looking for means to make money and then return to their hometown, were happy with the padrone as long as he supplied the jobs promised them. It is shown then that the padrone came under attack only when the needs of Canadian big business did not satisfy the requirements of migrant labourers. Cordasco was destroyed, in the end, not by the Canadian government's concern for migrant labour, but by a more practical dilemma, that is, the existence of hundreds of labourers caught in Canada without work and without means of returning to their homeland.

Captive Workforce: Human Trafficking in America and the Effort to End It.

Prior to the middle of the twentieth century, “human trafficking” in its modern
sense was referred to by a wide variety of terms, from “Padronism” to “White Slavery.”
In the present day, “human trafficking” has not only been used to describe a wide range
of activities with respect to the commodification of humans, but other terms, from
“modern-day slavery,” to “involuntary servitude’ have been loosely used to describe
situations that qualify as “human trafficking” under the United Nations’ definition. Thus
because the terms “human trafficking,” “slavery” and “forced labor” have been and
continue to be used with enormous variation, any study on the subject has a tendency to
be enormously confusing. For my part, I attempt to be as clear and consistent as possible
in the application of terms throughout my work. However, readers should be aware that
there is a great deal of over-lap between each of these concepts, and thus any discussion
of the subject is bound to contain semantic slippages and blurred conceptual boundaries.

Rural Work, Household Subsistence, and the North American Working Class

This essay examines seasonal rural work as part of the survival strategies of rural and urban households and individuals in the Midwestern United States. Using workers' memoirs and data from government investigations, the lives of so-called “hobo” workers are examined in relation to communities, labor markets, gender and sexuality, and class formation. “Hobo” was a colloquial term for seasonal migrant workers; most were young, immigrant and US-born men of European ancestry employed in crop harvesting, logging, mining, railroad construction, and other short-term jobs. The seasonal labor market drew together a heterogeneous workforce including farm owners, farm laborers, displaced industrial workers, and young men seeking adventure, as well as criminals, marginally employable drunkards, and disabled men. The essay traces the lives of individual workers, explains labor market structures, and places the mostly-male seasonal workforce in the context of families and communities. The history of rural work in the Midwestern US confounds notions of class formation that posit a one-way trip from peasant to worker, and suggests the ways in which theories of class formation have leaned too heavily on an unexamined image of rural life.

JSTOR: Reinventing Free Labor: Immigrant Padrones and Contract

Reinventing Free Labor: Padrones and Immigrant Workers in the North American West, 1880-1930. By Gunther Peck (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000. xiii plus 293 pp. $54.95/cloth. $19.95/paperback). In this rigorous and readable study, Gunther Peck provides a new perspective on an archetype of immigration history--the padrone, the immigrant labor contractor who held great power over his workers by controlling their employment. Early twentieth century reformers and some historians have viewed the padrones as villainous Old World relics, corrupt throwbacks to feudal hierarchy and deference trying to retain their power and stature amidst the rapid dynamic of modern industrial capitalism. Peck's padrones emerge as "entrepreneurs of space," providing critical links and a variety of functions in the volatile transnational labor markets that spread out across the North American continent.


Temporary Workers





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