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Wednesday, 17 June 2015 15:06

Farmworkers Union of Alberta leaders are sitting on the edge of their seats

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This could be it.

In a battle which has waged for more than 10 years, it looks like the Eric Musekamp vs (insert five premiers’ names) Alberta Government over trying to get farm workers legislation could be nearing an end, in a positive resolution for Musekamp.
Musekamp was in Edmonton this week, listening to Premier Rachel Notley’s throne speech for the new NDP government in Alberta. He was undoubtedly excited thanks to a recent Calgary Herald story which indicated the provincial Agriculture Minister, Oneil Carlier, will likely bring in regulations to protect Alberta farm workers.
We’re not sure how Musekamp, 62, could stand the anticipation as he gets ever close to getting what he thoroughly believes all farm workers in Alberta deserve.
Currently in Alberta, farm workers do not fall under Occupational Health and Safety legislation, there is no mandatory Workers’ Compensation Board coverage for agricultural employers nor any Labour Relations Code coverage for that matter.
After the Aug. 20, 1999 murder of fellow farm worker Terry Rash by his Taber-area employer, Musekamp came to the realization that farm workers have no protection.
It deeply effected him and his partner Darlene Dunlop to the point where they immediately started lobbying government to get this situation changed.
They were angry their requests, then demands, were basically being ignored. He formed the Farmworkers Union of Alberta, defiantly standing up to the Alberta government because farm workers unions are technically illegal in Alberta.
They have been fighting what has seemed to be a losing battle ever since.
Working with various labour federations from across Canada, he’s been photographed by Dunlop and various media speaking with federal and provincial politicians (including Peter MacKay, Justin Trudeau) and different agriculture groups within the province. He has also lobbied Alberta premiers  Ralph Klein, Ed Stelmach, Dave Hancock, Alison Redford, Jim Prentice and now Notley.
Musekamp was there June 15, 2015 for the inaugural Throne Speech in the reign of the ND — the first time in Alberta history.
It’s kind of ironic in a way to hear how excited he was as he sat and noticed Bob Wanner, the Speaker of the Legislature and NDP MLA for Medicine Hat, a riding which was close to the riding Musekamp ran in (Cypress-Medicine Hat) for the Liberals, which was won by Wildrose incumbent Drew Barnes.
Musekamp has had a lot of detractors and there are a lot of people who don’t like him. He has been resilient and unrelenting in getting labour legislation changed.
The Bow Island-area duo know their stuff. They are quite adept at referencing labour laws. Since 1999, they have both tried to no avail to rectify the farm worker labour situation. For the first time, there are tangible signs and a public confirmation something will be done.
Current Alberta Liberal interim leader Dr. David Swann has been Musekamp’s biggest supporter and undoubtedly the one who has been able to help the most politically.That’s likely the reason Musekamp decided to run for the MLA seat in Cypress-Medicine Hat, so there would be a Liberal candidate presence in southeast Alberta.
It’s the NDP which may ultimately give Musekamp and Dunlop what they covet. They will be watching the NDP closely to see if the comments made by the agriculture minister will come to fruition.
The NDP has a lot of activists, lawyers and some who are familiar with agriculture within their group, so maybe it won’t be surprising to see some legislation change in this area.
Also maybe this may not be so surprising considering Musekamp’s efforts with the Farmworkers Union of Alberta. He has made a lot of enemies during that time and some friends. Maybe he has even more friends who choose to stay quiet for fear of supporting someone they know their employer probably dislikes.
The NDP’s movements will be followed closely by the energy sector, labour, business and now one can add another interested party to that list.
Ryan Dahlman is managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact him with your comments  at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor