Production under glass : working conditions and class-consciousness of the Niagara greenhouse workers
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This study applies a Marxist theoretical paradigm to examine the working conditions of greenhouse workers in the Niagara Region, and the range of factors that bear upon the formation of their class-consciousness. The Niagara greenhouse industry represents one of the most developed horticultural regions in Canada and plays a prominent role in the local economy. The industry generates substantial revenues and employs a significant number of people, yet the greenhouse workers are paid one of the lowest rates in the region. Being classified as agricultural workers, the greenhouse employees are exempted from many provisions of federal and provincial labour regulations. Under the current provincial statutes, agricultural workers in Ontario are denied the right to organize and bargain collectively. Except for a few technical and managerial positions, the greenhouse industry employs mostly low-skilled workers who are subjected to poor working conditions that stem from the employer's attempts to adapt to larger structural imperatives of the capitalist economy. While subjected to these poor working conditions, the greenhouse workers are also affected by objectively alienated social relations and by ruling class ideological domination and hegemony. These two sets of factors arise from the inherent conflict of interests between wage-labour and capital but also militate against the development of class-consciousness. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 greenhouse workers to examine the role played by their material circumstances in the formulation of their social and political views as well as the extent to which they are aware of their class location and class interests. The hegemonic notions of 'common sense' acted as impediments to formation of classconsciousness. The greenhouse workers have virtually no opportunities to access alternative perspectives that would address the issues associated with exploitation in production and offer solutions leading to 'social justice'. Fonnidable challenges confront any organized political body seeking to improve the conditions of the working people.