Calls to force CN rail workers back to work bring into question Alberta’s “ethical oil” stance and the reputation of prairie grain

(November 20, 2019)  Both the government of Alberta and the usual suspects in the Astroturf Prairie agricultural groups are telling Ottawa to legislate an end to the CN rail workers’ strike.  Most people may not know the strike is over some exceedingly unsafe working conditions being imposed on workers.

For prairie grain farmers this year has been, to quote the Canadian author Hugh Garner, “one damn thing after another” finally ending in one of the worst harvests in years.

So it is no surprise the prospect of a rail interruption is not welcomed in the farm community.  However, farmers should not welcome legislation forcing rail workers back into unsafe conditions either.  Farmers know that safe working conditions are important in their operations so it is only ethical to support safe working conditions for others including the striking CN workers.

Although people can argue about if Alberta oil is ethically produced, there can be no argument that prairie farmers produce high quality grain.  It would be a shame to have that international reputation tarnished with rail accidents or with the deaths of rail workers forced to work in unsafe conditions.

Just as the Canadian diamond mining industry is careful to make the distinction between their “Polar bear” diamonds and “blood diamonds,” grain farmers and the agricultural Astroturf organizations should be careful with their rhetoric, lest our grain comes to be seen as “blood grain.”  As farmers we must respect the people who move our product to market and support their right to safe working conditions.

One comment

  1. By placing ourselves ;farmers; into their , the workers shoes, perhaps we can see with empathy that rail workers too ; have the right to operate in a safe working environment.

    What has the working crew of todays 100 car plus train been reduced to…???