Budtender Fired For Unionizing Gets Job Back

A Budtender in Victoria will be going back to work on Friday after he was fired three weeks ago.

Niko Kruzel works as a Budtender at Burnside Buds, a cannabis dispensary located in Victoria, BC. After months of dealing with issues regarding scheduling, inconsistent and low pay, and lack of health benefits, Kruzel and fellow Budtenders decided to contact a union organizer for the BC Budtender Union, a cannabis-focused division of UFCW 1518.

Kruzel started working at Burnside Buds in May 2021. Prior to unionizing, he had never received a write-up or formal reprimand. Three days after the employees voted to unionize, the store owner fired Kruzel through text message. The employer cited ‘lack of trust’ and ‘poor work ethic’ as reasons for the firing.

I’m excited to be back on the team that banded together to unionize

“I was surprised and shocked to get that late-night text,” said Kruzel. “It felt like a knee-jerk reaction from the employer and showed they didn’t know a lot about running a business.”

In the following days, the owner removed snacks from the staff room and reduced the employee discount.

The union filed a complaint with the BC Labour Relations Board (LRB). The complaint stated that Burnside fired Kruzel unlawfully and took away the staff snacks to retaliate against the union supporters.

“Union busting is all too common in retail, and frankly, it’s childish,” says Eric Nordal, a BC Budtender Organizer. “Some employers try everything to prevent workers from joining a union, like coercing, intimidating, taking away benefits, or straight-up lying. Luckily, here in BC, this is illegal, and we do have avenues to fight back.”

Fired budtender headed back to work

After UFCW 1518 took the complaint to the LRB, Burnside agreed to reinstate Kruzel, refill the snacks, and reinstate a 20% employee discount. Kruzel will be heading back to work this Friday.

“I’m excited to be back on the team that banded together to unionize and that looks out for each other when the employer doesn’t,” said Kruzel. “I’m looking forward to future negotiations and to serving people, as I’ve always done.”

Burnside Budtenders will now begin bargaining their first contract where they will fight for a living wage, health benefits and more.

Workers at non-unionized cannabis stores can learn more about the benefits of joining a union at ufcw1518.com/cannabis.

BC Government Announces Five Permanent Paid Sick Days

BC Labour Minister Harry Bains announced today that all workers in BC will have five paid sick days. This is a historic moment in the province’s history. The program begins on January 1, 2022, and will be employer-funded.

Today’s announcement improves upon the government’s temporary plan providing three days of COVID-related paid leave. The new, permanent plan provides five (5) paid days for any sickness or illness.

UFCW 1518, the labour movement, and other advocates have been fighting for a permanent, universal, employer-funded sick leave program since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Today’s win is a momentous occasion in the advancement of workers’ rights in British Columbia and sets the stage for more improvements here and elsewhere.

“This is a big moment for worker rights, and it is long overdue. Paid sick days has always been a health and safety issue, which every worker should have access to,” UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak explained. “This is an important day for every worker who has not had access to paid sick days. Thank you to all of our members and every worker who shared their stories on why permanent paid sick days are so important. This helps make us a stronger society coming out of a pandemic than we were going into it.”

Today’s announcement means that far fewer people will have to choose between going to work sick and paying their bills. This legislation will help women and racialized workers who predominantly make up low-wage workers. The majority of these workers have not had access to permanent paid sick leave before.

You can learn more about the permanent sick leave plan on our FAQ page.

UFCW 1518 will continue to press the province to add more days to the permanent employer-funded sick leave program.

Workers at Burnside Buds Join UFCW 1518

The BC Budtenders Union grew larger today after workers at Burnside Buds voted to join UFCW 1518.

Burnside Buds has one location in Victoria, where they have served cannabis to the public for several years.

The workers voted unanimously to join the BC Budtender Union, a division of UFCW 1518.

Initially, workers at Burnside Buds reached out to UFCW 1518 in late 2021, seeking more respect and better working conditions.

After the successful union vote, UFCW 1518 made an immediate impact at Burnside Buds. The union brought the case of a fired union supporter to the BC Labour Relations Board. As a result, the worker won his job back. It is illegal to fire an employee for supporting or voting for a union.

Over the next few months, the union and workers will begin negotiating with the company on workplace changes. In the past, BC BUD members have won higher wages, training and certification, and other major improvements to their workplaces. For example, workers at nearby Clarity Cannabis negotiated employer-paid Cannabis Sommelier training, among other major improvements.

Budtenders at Burnside Buds are looking forward to beginning the bargaining process and fighting for fairness at work.

If you are a budtender and you would like to find out how to join UFCW 1518 and improve your job, check out ufcw1518.com/cannabis.

Safeway Extra Stores Return to Safeway Contract!

UFCW 1518 is excited to announce that we have reached an agreement with Sobeys to bring all Safeway Extra stores back under the Safeway collective agreement.

As of December 5, 2021, all UFCW 1518 members at the three Safeway Extra stores (Willowbrook, Burquitlam and Dawson Creek) will join thousands of other UFCW 1518 members working at Safeway stores across the province under one superior contract.

Workers at Safeway Extra will now have access to provisions of the Safeway agreement, including things like:

  • Wage increases for all employees (including Grid A and B), scheduled for January 1, 2022
  • Cross-classification scheduling for all employees to capture more hours
  • Student seniority

This new agreement will help to build strength, solidarity, and momentum as Safeway members approach new contract bargaining in 2023.

In addition to implementing the terms of the Safeway collective agreement, the Union and Employer will meet within 30 days to review job postings that will go up in these stores. These will be full-time job postings for anyone in the geographic area to apply for and will be awarded by seniority.

UFCW 1518 congratulates the Safeway Extra Bargaining Committee, made up of Viril Anderson, Teresa Vegh and Marlene White, for helping to secure this transition agreement.

We are also pleased to share that UFCW 247 has also reached an agreement to move their members back to the Safeway agreement.

Retail workers who are interested in gaining collective bargaining strength by joining a union can learn more at ufcw1518.com/retail.