Thursday, 05 July 2018 10:20

Musekamp, Dunlop worked hard for the farmworker

Written by  Ryan Dahlman
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Canada Day was celebrated earlier this week. Many of us watched fireworks, did some Canada Day activities spent time with family.

There were two people in southern Alberta had their own reasons to celebrate Canada's 151st.
What seems like an eternity ago Eric Musekamp and Darlene Dunlop were disturbed and incensed about how a fellow farm worker named Terry Rash was stabbed and murdered by his Taber farmer boss in August 1999. As they were well aware, there was no legislated rights for protection.
They set out to change something which Alberta farm workers didn't have as compared to the rest of their counterparts across the country. No full Occupational Health and safety coverage and
After years of ill will between ag producers, fights with small conservative politicians, legal and legislative wrangling endless debates and meetings with agriculture, labour and business leaders, the Alberta provincial government announced June 27 almost 20 modification additions to the initial Bill 6 which gives farm workers Occupational Health and Safety coverage.
Farm owners will have an opportunity to cash in on grants worth up to $10,000 in order to improve safety on their operations. This is a three-year program costing $6 million.
It was a tough road for Musekamp and Dunlop. They fought from everything from even having a farmworkers union (which was considered illegal) to try and get legislation to put into law rights for farmworkers. 
They literally had to explain to unaware urban politicians, labour and union leaders about what they saw as the plight of those who work in agricultural-related industries. Painstaking long and arduous process with the politicians, there is no denying the diligence and tenacity the two shared in ensuring the system changed.
While the NDP and these newly formed government funded farm-safety groups are being credited with farm worker protection… everyone forgets it was Musekamp and Dunlop which got the ball rolling and pushed it for more than a decade until all of the politicians finally latched on and gave them their full attention.
That is minus one: then provincial Liberal leader Dr. David Swann always tried to help them out and should be given some credit for doing so.
Musekamp and Dunlop may have one more battle...if they so choose. United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney said June 27 that he will scrap Bill 6
“We all want to ensure safe workplaces across Alberta. Bill 6 has been a debacle from the start and farmers and ranchers across Alberta clearly recognize the NDP does not understand the realities they face. We will review the new rules announced today and consult with the people who are affected by the changes. The announcement today does not change our commitment to scrap Bill 6, it is clear Bill 6 needs to be sent back to the drawing board with proper consultation with farmers and ranchers from the start.”
Time will tell if Bill 6 has caused the major hardship and disruptions many farmers predicted dousing the extremely emotional and angry protests made by farmers at the government information sessions in late 2016. There was a lot of angst because there was a lot of missing information at the time and it took the provincial government this long to figure it out and flesh out the details. I'm sure if you ask them, they wish it wouldn't have taken so long but it is done.
Whether you like Bill 6 or not… it is undeniable that its existence is due to the work put forth by them.
They are part of labour history, a new chapter in agriculture labour.

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