An organization that historically has fought for workers' rights, the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA) now finds itself being compared by its own workers to anti-union Wal-Mart.
A month-long unionizing drive spearheaded by CUPE at the behest of the mostly female workforce who perform various social service jobs for the community group has left bitter feelings at the JCA's North York offices.
Nzinga Walker, interim executive director of the JCA, declined to comment.
She says she can't talk about the union drive until it's finalized, and that probably won't be for a few months.
It is not known how many workers have signed union cards. The labour board has not yet issued the certification, because the JCA is challenging some positions, saying they should not be in the bargaining unit.
Most of the employees who have signed are settlement workers, orienting newcomers to Canada, helping them find accommodation and jobs.
Workers who spoke on condition of anonymity spelled out a litany of woes including intimidation and firings as reasons for the drive.
One worker says the leadership of the JCA has been "hijacked" by a small group that's more concerned about media coverage than community-building.
"Ask the current leadership about their strategic initiative for social transformation and community-building and you'll get a blank stare," says this worker.
"Let's face it, the needs are there in the community. Much more could be done to service these needs."
Another says workers' input has been brushed aside by management.
"If you have a bright idea, keep it to yourself and go along with the dumbed-down, business-as-usual approach," she says.
The leadership of the JCA needs an injection of younger blood, workers say, if this important community organization is to remain relevant and effective as a force for social change.
Pat Daley of CUPE says JCA workers will meet in late August to elect a bargaining executive, after which talks for a first contract will begin.