Pritam Kaur Hayre was born Oct 29, 1925 in Kangsabu (Punjab), India. She was 28 when her husband passed away. She brought 4 children up herself working on farms.
She came to Canada in 1975 Feb 20th when she was 50 (her son Sawan Hayre sponsored her) and worked on farms in Abbotsford, Langley, Richmond, Surrey and all over the lower mainland picking blueberries, broccoli, beans, apples, fruits & veggies. She often worked 12 hour days/ 7 days a week– it was very difficult work.
Pritam has dealt with much adversity but with strength and tremendous resilience. She stood up for young women who were dealing with sexual harassment at one of the farms, and was a force to reckon with in helping to form the Farmworker’s Union. She partook in many protests asking for minimum wage and basic workers rights (including access to daycare and clean water). She was part of a boycott of one of the farms, where she blew a horn and 200 workers gathered in the field to stand up against the farmer. She and others took their case to court and won! They received 10,000 which was shared with all the workers.Up until 1980, the workers were not even making 2 dollars an hour.
Pritam was featured in a a film produced by the NFB in 1982 which followed the working conditions of immigrant farm workers. This is a quote that reflects her courage, strength and will to make a better life for herself & her community:
“I explain that not even a dog would live like we do now, but if we join a union things will improve: we’ll get our water, union buses will take us to and from the fields, we’ll work hard and we’ll get paid well. This way I made a hundred members. They took my photograph with my membership card and my son standing next to me – there were white people as well as our people at the meeting. We laughed a lot that day!”
This is one remarkable woman!