Huge Step Forward for Workers as Supreme Court Rules Uber Drivers can Raise Labour Issues in Courts

In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court ruled today that Uber drivers can raise legal issues with their employers in Canadian courts. This ruling paves the way for Uber drivers and other gig economy workers to become recognized as employees and given the rights and protections of the Employment Standards Act.

In the lead-up to today’s decision, Uber and other ride-sharing apps argued that their workers were independent contractors rather than employees. This distinction meant that Uber workers needed to raise their labour issues through a mediation process in the Netherlands. This foreign process was incredibly cumbersome and costly at $14,500 USD, making it virtually impossible for workers to seek resolution of their issues.

The ruling echoed what UFCW 1518 and other unions have been arguing for years: that Uber and other app-based companies set all of the terms of work for their contractors and should be considered employers. “There was clearly inequality of bargaining power between Uber and Mr. Heller [the worker],” the Supreme Court’s ruling said. “The arbitration agreement was part of a standard form contract. Mr. Heller [the worker] was powerless to negotiate any of its terms.”

The ruling also enables a $400 million class-action lawsuit on behalf of Uber drivers to proceed. If successful, the class-action lawsuit will award a minimum wage, vacation pay, and other protections that workers enjoy under the Ontario Employment Standards Act to anyone who has worked for Uber in Ontario since 2012.

“We’ve been fighting for Uber drivers to receive the full protection of the Employment Standards Act from the beginning,” said UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak. “This ruling proves what the union has been saying all along – that gig economy workers are employees, and companies like Uber can’t just ignore their responsibilities to workers under the guise of technological innovation. It’s a step in the right direction but there is more to do and we will continue to fight for fairness for gig and contract workers.”

UFCW 1518 is also encouraging the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) to revisit a decision made earlier this year and allow for the creation of made-in-BC ride-hailing services that offer a living wage to their drivers.

As the gig economy expands, UFCW 1518 is committed to advocating for app and other gig and contract workers to receive full protection and rights under the Employment Standards Act. To support our campaign for fairness for Uber drivers, go to www.ufcw1518.com/fairness-uber. To learn more about supports available to delivery workers and other gig and contract workers, go to www.ufcw1518.com/gig-and-contract-workers

Statement on National Indigenous Peoples Day (June 21)

Today, on National Indigenous Peoples Day and all year, we celebrate and acknowledge Indigenous peoples as the original peoples of this country and hold our hands up for their incredible leadership and resilience, and their contributions to the labour movement.

First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples continue to implement their rights, practice their culture, and protect their land in a country that has not yet adequately addressed the destructive legacy and ongoing impacts of colonialism and has not yet lived up to its commitments to reconciliation. As the country slowly reckons with the reality of the theft of land, genocide, and police-led violence against Indigenous peoples, we take this time as a union to stand in solidarity with Indigenous peoples and commit to doing better.

UFCW 1518 would like to acknowledge the shameful legacy of colonialism and its ongoing, intersecting impacts on the lives of Indigenous peoples in Canada and elsewhere. We recommit to action to support Indigenous peoples, to acknowledge the past and present impacts of racism, and to seek redress for the injustices that have defined the settler/Indigenous relationship.

UFCW Canada has a national Indigenous subcommittee to strengthen relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in our union and to bring together First Nation, Metis, and Inuit members to share their knowledge, ceremonies, and traditions to the benefit of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous members. To take action on the disproportionately high level of racialized police brutality that Indigenous peoples experience, UFCW 1518 has called for the defunding of the police in Canada as an initial step.

While we are proud of the steps that we have taken as a union, we know that these are not enough, and we are committed to supporting reconciliation, upholding Indigenous voices, and strengthening the position of Indigenous members in our union moving forward. We will continue to pressure all levels of government to live up to their commitments to reconciliation and justice for Indigenous peoples, including implementing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, and the National Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry Calls for Justice.

Reclaiming History. An Interview with Chief Rhonda Larrabee

Chief Rhonda Larrabee led the Qayqayt First Nation from the brink of extinction.

When Rhonda Larrabee received her status card as a member of the Qayqayt First Nation in 1994, she became the first documented member of the New Westminster Indian Band, taking the community off the Inactive General List of Reserves. She would soon learn the significance of that. “My phone started ringing non-stop,” Larrabee recounts. Many of the First Nations leaders who got in touch encouraged her to carry on the legacy of her lost community. So she did, educating herself about her history and that of the Qayqayt. Today, Larrabee is the chief of her nation.

“Growing up my mom told me she was of Chinese and French descent,” she remembers. It wasn’t until she was in her mid-20s while trying to build her family tree that Larrabee learned the truth about her heritage. “My mom said: ‘I’ll tell you once but never ask again and never talk about it again.’” Chief Larrabee’s mother told her that day about her experience in residential school and the loss of her family. Her mother also spoke of her decision to change her appearance to appear less Indigenous. After her mother passed away, Chief Larrabee was determined to learn more about her mother’s history and to honour her memory.

Under Chief Larrabee’s leadership, the Qayqayt community has grown to almost 100 documented members. The First Nation has reclaimed its fishing rights and is currently working to re-establish a reserve. A claim for a land base was filed in 2012 and negotiations with the government have been ongoing since 2015. “My mom always dreamt to own a home and have a piece of land she could call hers. She always said: ‘It’s the land that’s important.’” Chief Larrabee takes pride in the recognition the Qayqayt are receiving, thanks to her work. In 2014, a school in New Westminster was named after her nation: the École Qayqayt Elementary School, built on the site of the former St. Mary’s Hospital. “That was a big accomplishment for me,” says Larrabee. “That was the hospital where my mother was born and where my grandparents and great uncles and aunts passed away.”

Today, Chief Larrabee dedicates herself full-time to creating awareness of Indigenous history and the critical need for reconciliation. “What we need is for Canadians not only to learn but to understand what happened to our community. How this molded their lives and made Indigenous people feel ashamed, unloved and unwanted.” As a now-retired unionized worker, she says labour has an important responsibility in the reconciliation process. “We need to provide reconciliation training, provide jobs to Indigenous people and have employers understand Indigenous culture,” she says, adding that cultural awareness is still
lacking in the workplace. “How many Aboriginal workers would like to spend time with their
families on Aboriginal Day or when we have the salmon festival or spiritual ceremonies, but are still mandated to be at work?”

At UFCW 1518, Chief Larrabee has become a well- known figure, providing a traditional welcome to the Qayqayt territory at union meetings and events. She is grateful for the platform and acknowledgement the union has provided, including last year’s renaming of the Members Hall to Qayqayt Hall. “It’s been quite a journey to bring this awareness to New West,” says Chief Larrabee. “I went to Safeway the other day and a woman, member of this union, looked at me and said: ‘Are you coming to our union meeting this week?’ People recognize me now. It’s great that we are finally being seen.”

Big win as union certification voting goes digital. UFCW 1518 welcomes newest members at Cartems Donuts and Point Blank Creative

Today, workers at Cartems Donuts became UFCW 1518’s newest members. Cartems workers join the British Columbia staff at Point Blank Creative in becoming the first workers in the province to win their union through electronic voting.

In a historic decision, the British Columbia Labour Relations Board (LRB) ruled that workers can vote to join a union electronically in addition to in-person voting and mail-in ballots. This decision marks a powerful step forward in the labour movement, as it will make it easier for young, vulnerable, and gig workers to join unions.

The electronic voting experience is much closer to a traditional in-person vote as it happens in a timely window after the workers apply to the LRB to hold a vote. The workers only need to wait 5 days to vote rather than waiting several months to have their voices heard. During COVID-19, the ability to vote electronically became even more important as the union sought ways to organize workers while maintaining physical distancing.

“The decision to allow electronic union certification is historic,” said UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak. “Workers are building power during COVID-19 because they know how essential they are in our communities. Being able to welcome them to our union through electronic voting is an exciting step towards a new future where every worker can have a strong voice at work.”

Workers at Point Blank voted overwhelmingly in favor of joining UFCW 1518. Members at Point Blank shared their excitement at joining the union on social media, posting that “if COVID, precarious work, the gig economy, automation, and climate change have taught us one thing it’s that organized labour has never been more important in this country.”

Workers at Cartems also voted to join UFCW 1518 by a landslide, and were excited to help make Cartems an even better place to work.

Cartems donuts has been serving hand-made donuts to Vancouverites for nearly a decade. They are known for their fresh, locally-sourced ingredients and quirky donut offerings.

Point Blank Creative is a full-service creative agency that specializes in grassroots engagement, advertising, and digital campaigns for progressive causes. They have a long history of helping organizations to create change.

UFCW 1518 has a strong track record of working collaboratively with locally-owned small businesses to support their success in the communities in which they operate while also providing strong representation for workers.

We look forward to building a productive working relationship with Cartems and Point Blank and negotiating a strong first contract for the workers. Welcome to your union!

Sobeys to Cancel Hero Pay. UFCW 1518 Demands Reinstatement

UFCW 1518 received news that Sobeys has decided to end its Hero Pay program effective Saturday, June 13 which will affect employees who work at Safeway and FreshCo.

We are extremely disappointed by this decision. UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak sent an open letter today to Sobeys CEO Michael Medline urging him to reconsider cancelling Hero Pay at Safeway and FreshCo in British Columbia.

“Keeping the Hero Pay program going will show that Sobeys values front line workers and lead the way for fair treatment of grocery workers,” said Novak. “Thanks to the efforts of Sobeys employees and countless other front line workers, we have made it through the first wave of COVID-19. But the pandemic is far from over – our public health authorities and the Premier have warned us to expect further waves of the virus that could strike as early as the fall. To prevent further devastation, Sobeys workers will continue to do the same work they were doing during the first wave: extra cleaning, enforcing physical distancing, and maintaining safety protocols. They deserve Hero Pay as fair compensation for their work.”

You can read the rest of the open letter here.

When Sobeys announced they would be giving their workers Hero Pay on March 23, 2020, CEO Michael Medline said that “our retail and distribution centre teammates are true local heroes working on the frontlines in their communities to deliver essential services to Canadians. In times like these, enhanced compensation and support programs for those who need to care for themselves and their families are simply the right things to do.”

At the time, we recognized that Sobeys had taken a step in the right direction by recognizing the essential work their employees do. That is why we are all the more disappointed to see that has changed, as the decision announced by the company to cancel hero pay today shows.

If you work at Safeway or FreshCo and have any questions or concerns about this recent development, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at [email protected] or 1.800.661.3708.

July is Education Month!

UFCW 1518 is excited to announce that July will be Education Month! For the first time in our union’s history, all of our courses are being offered online so members can take part from the comfort of their homes.

Education Month is a new opportunity for all members from across the province to join a variety of union courses. We’ve designed several new courses so members can build skills, learn how to make improvements at their workplaces, get involved, get inspired, and meet new people.

UFCW 1518 members at every stage of their career can benefit from participating in Education Month. There are foundational courses for new members and people who have recently become Shop Stewards and Health and Safety Committee Members. Members who have taken our courses in the past, and who qualify, can move on to advanced coursework and level-up their skills. This year, we have added development courses that are open to all members on a variety of important topics and short “Power Hour” classes for members looking to expedite their learning.

We want everyone to have the chance to participate in the courses that are relevant to them, so some courses will require an application process. We will also be capping registration on some courses so that we can make them as interactive as possible and enhance your learning experience. For courses requiring an application, the deadline to apply is Sunday, June 14. For all other courses, registration closes on Tuesday, June 30. If you’re interested in a course, don’t wait to register or apply – once they fill up they close!

Visit our *NEW* Education Portal

Here are some courses you won’t want to miss:

Member Orientation

Learn about the benefits of your union membership!

This one and a half hour workshop is an opportunity to learn more about being a UFCW 1518 member, your rights under the collective agreement, and what we do with your dues. Members who have never attended a Member Orientation will receive a $50 reimbursement of their union initiation fee! Join this class to meet other union activists and get inspired by the movement you’re now a part of.

Mental Health At Work Bootcamp

Work stress? We can help

Work can sometimes take a toll on our lives and minds. With the right tools and resources, things can get better. In this bootcamp, we will explore strategies and resources to address work stress and other mental health concerns arising on the job. We will also go over your rights at work when it comes to your mental health and what your employer’s responsibilities are to ensure not only your physical safety but also your mental well-being.

Organizing 101

Union members are the best organizers

Organizing new members is a key way that our union builds worker power across industries. Learn about why we organize and how you can become an organizer yourself. In this exciting hands-on bootcamp, you will learn about the process of bringing new members into our union, the fundamentals of an organizing campaign, and what you can do to mobilize others to bring positive change to their workplaces by joining a union.

These are just a few of the exciting course offerings available on our new Education Portal, where you can find more information on UFCW 1518 education and how to participate.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to learn new skills, get to know your fellow UFCW 1518 members, and help fight for fairness for all workers!


UFCW 1518 Stands With Black Lives Matter and Indigenous Communities

UFCW 1518 stands with Black Lives Matter and other organizations calling for the defunding of the police in Canada. The recent incidents of police-led violence against Black and Indigenous people in Canada and the United States, including the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Chantel Moore, and others, demand action. So does the violent repression of peaceful protest in the United States and Canada.

As a democratic, social-justice union committed to solidarity with workers, UFCW 1518 cannot sit idly by while Black, Indigenous, and other communities of colour are brutalized and rights to peaceful protest are trampled. We are calling for defunding of the police in British Columbia, Canada, and elsewhere and for creating new, enhanced services that will keep all of our communities safe and peaceful. We believe that well-trained, culturally-sensitive, dedicated services can do a better job in many instances where policing has failed.

As a first step, we are calling for an independent audit of policing services to determine which services would be better and more appropriately handled outside of traditional policing. We would like to see this happen broadly in Canada’s policing service (the RCMP) and in local jurisdictions like the Vancouver Police.

“Defunding the police” refers to a new model of law enforcement and servicing communities that would divert some funding from traditional policing to mental health services, social services, community investments, and other forms of intervention.

The goal of defunding the police is not to totally eliminate policing. Instead, defunding aims to use funds that are currently going to police forces for more appropriate services in the cases of mental health crises, homelessness, addiction issues, welfare checks, and other situations rather than policing these issues. A reduced, tactically-focused policing force can be maintained that will handle and investigate violent crime.

The movement also calls on lawmakers to decriminalize drug use, transit fare evasion, and other minor non-violent offences because criminalizing these behaviours is a waste of public resources and does not lead to lower rates of violent crime.

Defunding the police will help to address the brutalizing of Black, Indigenous, and other communities of colour by the police. While systemic racism pervades all levels of Canadian institutions, defunding the police is a practical and effective first step towards reconciliation, justice, and safety for Black, Indigenous, and other communities of colour.

We call on other organizations in the labour movement to speak out in favour of defunding the police. The labour movement has led the way on countless progressive initiatives that have made life better for working people from the 40-hour workweek to the minimum wage to equal pay for equal work. Now is the time to lead in calling for the defunding of the police to stop the brutalization of Black, Indigenous, and other communities of colour, build a more just society, and stand up for the rights of working people.

Save-On-Foods President Darrell Jones Refuses to Reinstate the Pandemic Premium, UFCW 1518 Taking it to Bargaining

Today, UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak and Secretary-Treasurer Patrick Johnson announced that the fight to reinstate the Pandemic Premium for Save-On-Foods workers will go to bargaining.

On May 22, Save-On-Foods suddenly announced that the Pandemic Premium would come to an end on May 30, shocking many of the workers who began receiving the Premium in March in recognition of their extra work and the added risk they were taking on as front line workers.

Following the announcement, UFCW 1518 launched a letter-writing campaign to ask Save-On-Foods President Darrell Jones to reinstate the Pandemic Premium. Nearly 6,000 people sent letters of support.

Many workers spoke out in emails to the company and to the union, sharing how important the Pandemic Premium is to them. One worker wrote “I know a few hundred dollars doesn’t seem like a lot to salary decision-makers, but to me, that few hundred dollars a month represents rent, encouragement, and hope that I can save up money for a future.”

Despite the public outcry and the Union’s efforts, Darrel Jones and Save-On-Foods have stated that they will not change their position and reinstate the Pandemic Pay.

“We are disappointed that Darrell Jones and Save-On-Foods are refusing to reinstate the Pandemic Premium. The COVID-19 crisis is ongoing, and the workers are taking on added risk and more responsibility. They deserve the Pandemic Premium for their efforts,” said Novak. “To the thousands of Save-On-Foods workers who asked for the Pandemic Premium back, we are not standing down. We are taking the $2 per hour Pandemic Premium to bargaining.”

“For us, the fight is just beginning,” added Johnson.

Save-On-Foods began offering their workers a 10% discount or 30 times the normal Save-On-More points on purchases. Then they instituted a weekly “Darrell’s Deals” program giving workers a free food item per week. Late last week, they began offering gift cards of up to $100. The union believes that these incentives, and the record-high profits that grocery stores have been earning during COVID-19, prove that Save-On-Foods can afford to keep paying the Pandemic Premium.

President Novak and Secretary-Treasurer Johnson will make reinstatement of the Pandemic Premium a key bargaining position when they reconvene the bargaining advisory committee on Wednesday. They will fight for the Premium to become permanent for Save-On-Foods workers.

You can still send a letter to Darrell Jones and Save-On-Foods to show your support.

More than 5,000 Community Members Stand Up to Demand Save-On-Foods Reinstate the Pandemic Premium

More than 5,000 people sent letters of protest to Save-On-Foods CEO Darrell Jones and the Pattison Group last week after the company abruptly announced they would be ending the Pandemic Premium for their workers as of May 30.

Members at Save-on-Foods were shocked when they were told that their Pandemic Premium pay would be ending the subsequent week and, instead, they would be able to choose between a 10% discount on groceries or 30x loyalty points on purchases.

Many workers felt disappointed and insulted by the sudden change in compensation. One member stated that “I know a few hundred dollars doesn’t seem like a lot to salaried decision-makers, but to me, that few hundred dollars a month represents rent, encouragement, and hope that I can save up money for a future.”

A letter-writing campaign by UFCW 1518 led to an outpouring of support from the public. The campaign and the move by Save-On-Foods was a major story covered by multiple news outlets including CTV and the CBC.

Save-On-Foods customers shared letters that they wrote to the company asking them to reinstate the Pandemic Premium. Several of these customers shared that they were outraged that the 10% discount or offer of additional loyalty points benefited Save-On-Foods rather than the workers by returning the incentive to the company. As one put it, “That’s not how ‘rewards’ work. That’s not how genuine recognition works. That’s not how kindness and care work.”

In response to media inquiries, Save-On-Foods stated that “the value of this new team member discount program far exceeds the value of the short-term hourly bonus.” However, according to members polled at Save-On-Foods, the average single worker spends $50-$80 per week on groceries. Under the discount program, they would save $5-8 per week, far less than the up to $80 per week they could make with the Pandemic Premium.

UFCW 1518 received a reply from Save-On-Foods CEO Darrell Jones to a letter sent asking him to reinstate the Pandemic Premium. Mr. Jones refused to reinstate the pay, justifying his decision by stating that “the spread of COVID-19 has fortunately been minimized in our communities.” However, despite the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions, grocery workers are still expected to perform enhanced sanitation procedures, enforce physical distancing in stores, and frequently restock essential items. They are also at increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 as they interact with high numbers of members of the public every day.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is not over and unfortunately it won’t be over for quite some time,” said UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak. “It’s too soon to end the Pandemic Premium.”

You can send a letter to Save-On-Foods CEO Darrell Jones and Jim Pattison to ask that they reinstate the Pandemic Premium for their workers.