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Past EVENTS / Stories of Collective Care in the Time of COVID-19: Part Two

Stories of Collective Care in the Time of COVID-19: Part Two

Please join us for a series of online conversations with essential workers, food justice advocates, and the adult literacy community. Learn about collective strategies of mutual support and grassroots organizing. Experience some of the cultural practices being created during this time of global transition.

These important panel discussions will explore community care in Toronto and beyond.

Panel Two: Precarious Workers Are Essential Workers

Grocery store workers, farm labourers, and cleaners were already precarious workers before the pandemic. Job insecurity, low wages, hazardous working conditions, and the looming threat of becoming undocumented are just some of the challenges they face. Yet, their work continues to be essential to ensuring society’s basic needs. How can we better protect workers who are providing essential services but are marginalized by the system? This panel features workers’ sharing the realities of their daily lives and recommendations on how to ensure their safety and protection.


Laura Elena Peña is a workers right advocate, proud feminist, and  National Representative for United Food and Commercial Workers Union Canada. She works assisting locals on organizing campaigns, collective bargaining, training, and other capacities. She is also involved in the Agricultural Workers Alliance, helping migrant workers know and protect their rights. Before joining the Organizing department she pursued her degree in Socio Cultural Anthropology for which she did extensive participant observation research in the San Lorenzo Community Center for her thesis titled “Latino Identity and Integration in Toronto”.  Laura’s previous work experiences includes the non for profit Mennonite New Life Center assisting the Latino community and her volunteering work in Anduhyaun indigenous women shelter. Laura speaks Spanish, English, French, and ASL.

Nathalie Vengal, (United Food and Commercial Workers Union representative) Nathalie Vengal is a Youth advocate and Workers' rights and Food Security activist who resides in the city of Toronto. She holds an undergraduate degree in Human Rights and Equity Studies from York University, and works as a National Representative/Organizer for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW Canada). During her time in University, she was a Chapter President for the Students Against Migrant Exploitation (SAME) group on campus and founded the first youth-led food bank in the City of Toronto. Nathalie is also a Board ember for the North York Harvest Food Bank and sits at the Toronto Food Policy Council, for the Municipal government.

Jesson Reyes serves as the managing director for the Migrant Resource Centre Canada, a migrant service institution aimed to improve the lives of migrant and immigrant workers by advancing their rights and dignity. Prior to working at MRCC, Jesson was also the regional coordinator for Migrante Ontario, where he helped organize migrant workers in the Greater Toronto Area and in the Atlantic region. Jesson attended Seneca College for the Social Service Work Program. Jesson briefly worked as a Settlement Worker working with newcomer families in Mississauga and in Scarborough.

Valrie Francis works at The Real Canadian Superstore as a Cash Office Clerk and assists in the Front-End department. She is one of the union stewards at her location and has completed both phases of the Youth Internship Program that is hosted each year by United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW). She is a graduate at York University with an undergraduate degree in Sociology and works at a transitional center for women. Valrie is a member of UFCW Local 1006A.


Lourdes De La Peña, (Worker / Leader of Migrante Ontario).

Emilio, (Migrant farm worker under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program).


This event is moderated by and presented in partnership with Kwentong Bayan Collective, who are Myseum of Toronto’s 2020 Artist Collective in Residence. Kwentong Bayan is a collective of two Toronto-based artists, Althea Balmes and Jo SiMalaya Alcampo. Their artistic mandate is to explore a critical and intersectional approach to community-based art, labour, and education. In the Filipino language, “kwentong bayan” is the literal translation of “community stories.”

Stories of Collective Care in the Time of COVID-19: Part Two

20 May 2020


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