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Oct 23

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Dear friend,

It’s been nine years since the Immigrant Workers Centre (IWC) first opened in Montreal. In those nine years, we have grown from strength to strength. Our modest office on Victoria Avenue in the heart of Côte-Des-Neiges hums with activity and intensity. Established in 2000 by immigrant workers and a few allies, we now work with over 700 immigrant workers each year.


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Dear friend,

It’s been nine years since the Immigrant Workers Centre (IWC) first opened in Montreal. In those nine years, we have grown from strength to strength. Our modest office on Victoria Avenue in the heart of Côte-Des-Neiges hums with activity and intensity. Established in 2000 by immigrant workers and a few allies, we now work with over 700 immigrant workers each year.

Today we are writing to invite you to be part of an exciting new initiative to support the everyday work of this vibrant organization which defends the rights of immigrant workers in Quebec. By becoming a regular donor to the IWC, through a small, monthly gift, you can ensure that its vital work continues. In doing so, you will ensure not only the continued work of the Centre, but also its capacity to expand to meet ever-growing demands, as its fine reputation for effectively supporting the rights of immigrant workers spreads further afield.

For nine years, the IWC has provided training and para-legal support for immigrant workers about labour laws and workers’ rights. Through workshops, door-to-door discussions, and trainings held at the centre, we act as an educational resource to promote awareness of the workplace rights of immigrant workers. We work directly with immigrant workers seeking recourse at the Commission des Normes du Travail/Labour Standards Commission by helping them navigate its complex mechanisms. Workers often fail to obtain redress for the workplace abuses that they endure. When immigrant workers are not fluent in English or French, it can be especially hard for them to complete the required forms and take the required steps to seek justice. At every step of the way, the IWC supports workers taking complaints about their working conditions, unfair dismissals, and other injustices, helping to break the silence and isolation for Montreal’s most vulnerable workers.

Staffed largely by volunteers, the IWC is open on weeknights and weekends to suit the work schedules and other needs of our members, who do so many tough yet crucial jobs. They include garment workers, domestic aides, cleaners, and casual labourers in the city and in the farms of Quebec. The IWC works with some of our society’s most vulnerable and exploited workers – and some of the most inspiring people in our community – as they find the courage and tenacity to stand up for their rights against exploitation and abuse.

You can find out more about some of the IWC’s struggles and campaigns by reading our latest newsletter which you will find enclosed. From its day-to-day work supporting immigrant workers and their families’ struggles for justice and dignity in the workplace, against exploitation, racism, sexual harassment and abuse, to its coalition work locally and further afield, to research to better inform the struggles for the rights of immigrant workers in Montreal, Quebec and Canada.

Read about the IWC’s work to mobilize and fight for justice for laid-off garment workers at L’Amour, some of whom worked for as many as 30 years for the company and are now jobless. Find out about the IWC campaign to extend CSST (workers’ compensation) coverage to domestic workers, regardless of immigration status. Find out how IWC is connecting to other organizations of immigrant and migrant workers globally as part of the new International Migrants Alliance launched in Hong Kong in 2008.

Read about the IWC’s “Health Care for All” campaign demanding an end to the discriminatory 3-month waiting period for public health insurance imposed on immigrants and temporary workers (Delai de carence/delay of care). Read how the IWC has joined with other organizations to raise concerns about the “reasonable accommodation” debate and racism in Quebec, and in support of immigrant women’s struggles as a founding and active member of the March 8th Committee of Women of Diverse Origins in Montreal. This newsletter, along with other multimedia resources, is also available online at the IWC’s website, https://iwc-cti.ca.

The IWC is really getting noticed – from its members being invited to speak at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration in June 2008, to coverage in mainstream and alternative media. From a CTV News profile of the IWC (view the clip on the IWC website), reports in the Montreal Gazette, and The Hour, to articles in Canadian Dimension, Left Turn (USA) and Education for Development (Philippines) and now, in a new book published by Fernwood Publishing, Fight Back: Workplace Justice for Immigrants, people across Quebec, Canada, and internationally are hearing about the IWC’s work.

One of the many poignant moments of the past nine years was when a woman came into the Centre during a meeting, and handed us an envelope. Her husband had been reinstated in his job with the IWC’s help after being fired. She told us: “we could not give much since my husband has been out of work for months now, but we wanted to show our appreciation for your help.” Inside the envelope was $200 and a thank you letter. It was a real vote of confidence and trust in the IWC’s daily work, from a worker and his family whose case it had taken on – and won.

Located in the heart of one of Montreal’s most diverse neighbourhoods, the Immigrant Workers Centre is now a space where immigrant/migrant workers and their communities can come together, break their isolation, socialize, share their experience and resources, build mutual support, and organize for better wages, conditions and dignity.

One thing’s for sure: for a small grassroots organization operating on an annual budget of under $60,000, the IWC already achieves an extraordinary amount. Administered by a Board of Directors made up of immigrant workers and their allies, volunteers are at the heart of the IWC, with a paid coordinator and two part-time organizers. With more resources, such as funding for a fulltime organizer, the Centre’s capacity to meet a daily demand from some of the city’s most vulnerable workers – and sometimes, workers from further away who have heard of the Centre’s work – would be greatly improved. With your support, there is so much more that can – and must- be done. With your regular support, the IWC can:

* Build our leadership development and education programs and materials in order to reach and organize more immigrant workers.
* Hire a fulltime organizer to address the ever-growing needs of immigrant workers in Montreal, and work on a living wage campaign
* Find new, more accessible premises: we have outgrown our small office space –a measure of our success, but a limitation on the resources that we can offer

I feel privileged and proud to be part of the Immigrant Workers Centre’s first nine years. And I am excited to be part of its future. Please join me in supporting the work of the IWC by becoming one of our regular donors.

Yours sincerely,

Eric Shragge, President, Board of Directors, Immigrant Workers Centre

PS: If you would like a tax receipt please make cheques payable to: Québec Institute for International Research and Education (QIIRE). For monthly donations, post-dated cheques can be made out to QIIRE. Please write “Immigrant Workers Centre” in the memo line.

Cheques can be mailed to the Immigrant Workers Centre:
4755 av. Van Horne, Suite 110
Montréal (Québec)
Canada H3W 1H8

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