Bargaining Update for UFCW 1518 Safeway Members

What’s the Latest on Safeway bargaining?

For over eight months, UFCW 1518 has been in bargaining with Sobeys.

They purchased Safeway stores nine years ago. So while you see Safeway signs on the store, that is not the company we bargain with.

When Sobeys first purchased Safeway stores, our members shared that they felt hope and excitement about a better future now that they would work for a Canadian-based company.

It wasn’t long before that hope turned into utter disappointment. The sentiment among employees today is the worst we have heard in 10 years, worse than the challenges our members faced even at the peak of the pandemic.

Our members have told us that they’re angry and frustrated. And more than anything, they feel deeply disrespected by the corporation they work for—Sobeys. And rightfully so. They should be furious.

This is a national corporation that has made record profits and has been called out for profiteering in the grocery industry and one that refuses to pay fair wages to employees that they rely on every day at the stores they operate.

  • We are fighting to UNFREEZE workers from minimum wage. It takes over 8 years to get an increase above minimum wage at Safeway—this is UNACCEPTABLE.
  • We are fighting for WAGE INCREASES. Prices of groceries keep going up, but wages are not. All workers at Safeway deserve increases for the hard work that they do.
  • We are fighting for FULL-time jobs. Even employees with 20 years of service are waiting for their chance to be full-time.

What have we seen Sobeys (Safeway) do?

Offer less than 1% annual wage increases.

Cut hours in stores.

Cancel bargaining dates.

So what are we doing now?

Our bargaining committee, staff reps, and leadership have been in stores talking with members. We are very pleased to hear that members are telling us loud and clear they are ready to stand together to support their bargaining committee for a fair contract.

What comes next?

We are committed to bargaining with Sobeys at our upcoming dates—with the goal of reaching an agreement we can bring back to our members to vote. BUT we also recognize that in the over 36 days of bargaining, they have barely moved on their wage offer and escalation may be necessary to fight for a fair deal. And that is why we are reconvening on Tuesday, August 29, with the Advisory Committee to have this very discussion about what comes next!

Do we have dates to resume talks?

Yes, after Sobeys cancelled dates in August, we have confirmed that discussions will resume for several days starting on Wednesday, September 20. That is why we are meeting with the Advisory Committee and have had folks in stores every week to build momentum, awareness, and support so we are stronger than ever when we are back at the table!

Trees Alpha St Workers Join UFCW 1518

Workers at Third Trees Cannabis Shop in Victoria, B.C. vote to Join the BC Budtenders’ Union

Workers at the Trees Cannabis Alpha Street location in Victoria, B.C. (Lekwungen Territory), recently voted to join the BC Budtenders’ Union and UFCW Local 1518, uniting this store with two existing Trees Cannabis locations in Victoria.

This endeavour was led by dedicated budtender Kyra Ball who has only worked at Trees Cannabis for less than a year. Kyra played a pivotal role in orchestrating the unionization of the third Victoria Trees location.

“This [Alpha Street] location opened after the two others were already unionized, and I always wondered why we weren’t,” said Ball.

Ball’s efforts were inspired by the fact that the two other Trees Cannabis locations in Victoria were already unionized, giving her the courage to begin the organizing process. Reading through the Trees Collective Agreement on the UFCW 1518 website also allowed her to gain insights into the provisions and benefits workers at her location could have.

But what led Ball into organizing was when she found out that the stores were bought out by Four20, an Albertan competitor, back in July, leaving Ball and the team of four in ambiguity.

“After I heard that Four20 bought out Trees Cannabis, we wondered what it meant for us and our jobs,” said Ball. “We found most of the information about the acquisition through online searches, but we still didn’t know what it meant for our future or how to ask the right questions.”

Ball now looks forward to having union representation and negotiating their first contract, hoping to secure access to fair hours and better coverage for sick days.

As Ball notes, these contract improvements would represent a win-win for workers and the customers that shop at Trees Alpha St.

“By BC law, we can’t open a store without at least two workers. With only four of us, it’s difficult to find coverage, so the store may stay closed that day, making it hard for us to serve and retain customers. By getting access to members at the other locations, we can keep the store open and help the business grow.”

The Alpha St. Location team spent little time deciding whether or not they should join UFCW 1518. They voted unanimously in favour of joining the union on Thursday, August 10, showing their strong solidarity.

If you are a cannabis worker and would like to know more about forming a union at your workplace, check out the BC Budtenders’ Union homepage at ufcw1518.com/cannabis.

Celebrating our Union Pride – A statement from President Kim Novak

As Pride celebrations in Vancouver begin to wind down, we want to take a moment to reflect on our role as a labour union that is an ally to the queer community. A union that fights for the rights of all working people, regardless of who they are or who they love. A union with Pride.

In the past several years, the LGBTQIA2S+ community has demonstrated remarkable resilience in the face of challenges from anti-LGBTQIA2S+ propaganda, hate, and violence. As your union, UFCW 1518 recognizes the solemnity of this situation and denounces any efforts to undermine or discredit the hard-earned progress our society has achieved in advancing LGBTQIA2S+ rights.

Our commitment to supporting the LGBTQIA2S+ community and participating in the Vancouver Pride Parade runs deep. We firmly believe that inclusivity, respect, and equality are not just admirable ideals. They are the very foundation upon which our union stands. Just as we advocate for worker safety and the rights of our hardworking members, we also wholeheartedly champion the rights and dignity of all individuals, irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Vancouver Pride Parade was one way to celebrate all the progress we have made. But it also helps us continue to recognize how much more work we need to do to create a world where everyone feels like they belong.

As a member of the Canadian Labour Congress, UFCW 1518 stands united with unions across Canada in fighting for LGBTQIA2S+ members and the community. Together, we amplify our voices and leverage our collective strength to create positive change and an environment where people can love and live freely without fear, discrimination, or violence. Canada’s unions will continue to join others in the community to celebrate Pride and support LGBTQIA2S+ equality and justice. Join an event near you: https://canadianlabour.ca/events/2023-pride-festivities-across-canada/

Looking ahead, it is critical for us to continue to celebrate and speak up for the LGBTQIA2S+ community. No matter who you are, what you look like, or what your sexual orientation is, you deserve dignity and respect.

Kim Novak
UFCW 1518 President

2024-2027 UFCW 1518 Leadership Team

UFCW 1518’s nomination period for officers concluded yesterday with just one candidate nominated for each position, leading to an unopposed election for President, Secretary-Treasurer, Recorder, and Vice Presidents by acclamation.

Kim Novak, who has served as UFCW 1518 President since 2019, will continue her role as President for the 2024-2027 term.

“I am honoured to serve as President of UFCW 1518 for a second term,” Novak said. “These last four years were different than we expected and planned for, with a global pandemic throwing all of our members in every sector onto the front lines in the work they do. Despite the challenges we faced, we strengthened our union by growing our membership, organizing new workplaces, training thousands of members, increasing member engagement, substantially improving the financial position of the union in the member action reserve fund and more. We look forward to where we go from here, and congratulate the newly elected executive board members!” 

Also returning for the upcoming term is Patrick Johnson, who will continue to serve as Secretary-Treasurer.

“It is a privilege to work on behalf of all UFCW 1518 members for a second term,” said Johnson. “I am again looking forward to bolstering the union’s financial and political power, driving us towards greater achievements. Our union has been on the forefront of organizing and we look forward to growing that momentum as we continue to see more and more workers standing together to build better workplaces.”

In addition to the President and Secretary-Treasurer, a Recorder and 23 Vice Presidents were elected to the executive board by acclamation. Compromising of dedicated UFCW 1518 members, their presence ensures a diverse and representative team to lead the union on a mission to advocate for worker rights, respect, dignity, and interests:

Recorder: Nanette Fredericks—MacKenzie Co-Op
Vice President #1: David Gutierrez—Save-On-Foods 910
Vice President #2: Linda Wilson—Port Alberni Home Support
Vice President #3: Marylou Fonda—Save-On-Foods 2223
Vice President #4: Kathleen Guerin—Save-On-Foods 0931
Vice President #5: James (Jimbo) Grant—Save-On-Foods 0935
Vice President #6: Jennifer Brown—Sobeys 4966
Vice President #7: Virgilio Encarnacion—Sofina Foods, Port Coquitlam
Vice President #8: Jhoelyn Cantil—Sunrise Poultry, Aldergrove
Vice President #9: Eleanor Smith—Penticton Home Support, Penticton
Vice President #11: Rajiv Mehra—Grand River Foods, Abbotsford
Vice President #12: Jaime Emerson—Save-On-Foods 2208
Vice President #13: Connie Buckner—Cowichan Home Support, Duncan
Vice President #14: Anita Letendre—Save-On-Foods 0999
Vice President #15: Kevin Sparkes—Sunrise Poultry, Maple Ridge
Vice President #16: Jennifer Vecchio—Nelson Home Support, Nelson
Vice President #17: Teresa-Lyne Dziedzic—Sobeys 4920
Vice President #18: Raven Morningstar—Save-On-Foods 6690
Vice President #19: Dennis Sato—Sobeys 4976
Vice President #21: Christine Holowka—Save-On-Foods 0967
Vice President #22: Armin Reyes—Sobeys 4996
Vice President #23: Erica Jones—Save-On-Foods 0995
Vice President #24: Peter Dombrowski—Sobeys 4920
Vice President #25: Marlene White—Sobeys 4977

UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak, Secretary-Treasurer Patrick Johnson, and the executive board are passionate about the labour movement and advocating for member rights. Their unwavering commitment to engage, educate, and empower members to create positive change comes with tailored in-store visits, training and education sessions, and appreciation events for a diverse range of industries across British Columbia and the Yukon, including the retail food, community health, seasonal agriculture, and professional service sectors spanning over 26,000 members.

Member Spotlight: Clint Dennett, James Commodore & Rajiv Mehra

Clint Dennett & James Commodore, Avalon Dairy Shop Stewards


Our members in the Industrial sector—which runs the gamut from meat processing plants to recycling centres—are tough. As UFCW 1518 Executive Board member and Grand River Foods employee Rajiv Mehra says, “we are pushed a lot.”

GRAND RIVER FOODS Worker & UFCW 1518 Executive Board Member Rajiv Mehra
GRAND RIVER FOODS Worker & UFCW 1518 Executive Board Member Rajiv Mehra

He describes his own work environment as incredibly cold and wet, but it’s all because of the union that workers like him have the health protections and work wear that they need to do the job safely and well. 

What these physical workspaces lack in warmth, our members make up for with care, community, and vitality. The Industrial sector boasts one of the strongest networks of engaged and vocal Shop Stewards, who take great care to protect their coworkers. Consistently, they act as both a buffer between the shop floor and the employer, as well as a liaison between the larger union and their coworkers. 

Avalon Dairy member Clint Dennett is one of these Stewards. “I was in it before we were even certified. I took it on as a challenge. [Stewards] are pretty much the leaders around here—we try to bring everybody together and on board.”

Inspiring passion and power in their coworkers will be the next big challenge for these leaders. The more members who are willing to speak up, enforce their collective agreement, and use the union’s platform to advance causes that they value, the stronger the union and the better their wages and working conditions will be. Dennett agrees and says that mentorship and education for members will be key because the Stewards can’t be everywhere at once. Mehra notes that shifts in demographics must be considered when talking about empowering workers too. When he first started at Grand River Foods, many languages were spoken among staff. 

Update Magazine sat down with Mehra, Dennett and other passionate industrial activists to ask them how the union has improved their workplace, and how their coworkers can get more involved.

How has unionizing benefited your workplace?

James Commodore (Avalon Dairy): Respect. A lot more. We don’t have a lot of the bullying from management anymore because we have rights now. We have a voice. Things have changed quite a bit for the better.

Rajiv Mehra (Grand River Foods): Job security. If the employer has done something wrong, you can approach the union through your Shop Stewards—they’re the first people on the floor, elected by the members. We’ve seen many times when people are terminated from the shop. When you’re nonunionized you have no rights to come back to work. But when you’re unionized, we can fight to bring people back and get them their job back.

Clint Dennett (Avalon Dairy): I’m glad we got a constant rep. When [Union Rep] Michael came in, it was like a safety net, so
now we can move forward. He’s here—and it’s good for the members to see him. It’s that reinforcement of ‘look the union’s here.’ 

What advice would you give to members who want to get more involved?

Mehra: Call the union! See the benefits that your union has. They will support you in every aspect, wherever you are. You need their help, they come. Nobody can harass you, nobody can push you, nobody can bully you—these are the advantages the union has. And without the union, you can’t get all these benefits.

Dennett: I would say, ‘do it.’ That one class that we took online, you learn so much. You think you know a lot, but as soon as you do a class you learn so much more.

Fighting For a Fair Contract at Safeway

As you know, we have been negotiating with Sobeys for six months now, with over 38 days of bargaining. Despite our efforts, the union and the employer continue to be very far apart in our positions.

We had expected Sobeys to come to the table in August to finally move closer to a settlement. Instead, they cancelled the scheduled dates, once again delaying progress in reaching a tentative agreement. We are not scheduled to meet again until Wednesday, September 20.

On Tuesday, August 1, we met with our Advisory Committee, made up of Safeway members from stores and pharmacies across BC to provide a full update on what has happened so far in bargaining, including a summary of the employer’s last proposal.

The employer proposal included:

  • Unacceptable wage increases of 1% in Year 1, a maximum lump sum of $400 in Year 2, and less than 1% in Years 3–5 of the contract for employees at the top rate
  • A wage scale that does NOT recognize members who have been frozen at minimum wage for years, and keeps members frozen when the minimum wage goes up
  • No pathway for meaningful full-time jobs or access to hours
  • Cuts to benefit contributions, unlimited vendor stocking, and more exclusions

Our Advisory Committee were clear on the next steps: it is time to mobilize the membership, educate them about what the employer is doing at the bargaining table, and prepare to fight for a contract that lifts everyone up.

What are we fighting for in this round of bargaining?

  • Wage increases for all employees
  • Stop freezing workers at minimum wage
  • Access to hours and full-time jobs
  • RESPECT for the hard work Safeway members do every day

To be prepared for the September bargaining dates, we need the membership to be well-informed. That is why Bargaining Committee members, Union Reps, and UFCW 1518 leadership will be in stores in the coming weeks, talking to members on all shifts.

As we head into bargaining again in September, we need members to stand together in support of fighting for a fair contract for ALL Sobeys employees. We will need to be ready to escalate our actions, including actively participating in public awareness campaigns and demonstrations and being ready to vote yes in a strike vote. 

In solidarity,

Kim Novak
President, UFCW 1518

Safeway Cancels Remaining Bargaining Dates

Safeway has contacted us and cancelled bargaining dates on August 2-3.

This move by Safeway is appalling. 

The Bargaining Committee has been negotiating with this employer for six months, and in that time, the Employer’s wage offer continues to be extremely insulting with less than 1% wage increases in some years, and NO wage increases in other years for many employees. Safeway also continues to demand concessions on benefits and refuses to agree to a pathway for meaningful full time jobs in the future. 

We believe that Safeway is now using bargaining delays to put more financial pressure on you. Grocery prices continue to rise, and Safeway continues to report profits off the backs of their workers. 

Workers who have dedicated their careers to this employer through a pandemic, natural disasters and disrespectful customer behaviour deserve better. The majority of workers at Safeway make minimum wage, with an extremely high number reporting they can’t afford to shop in the stores where they work so hard. Our Safeway members have not received meaningful wage increases in 10 years, and Safeway still refuses to negotiate a fair contract. 

So what do we do next? 

On August 1, we will meet with our Bargaining Committee and Advisory Committee to discuss our next steps. We need to be ready to escalate action against Safeway, informing the public about what they are doing, and fighting for a fair deal.

We will keep members informed about the next steps, because we need our Safeway members ready to take action.

Member Spotlight: Yukie Imada

UFCW 1518 Community Health Member Yukie Imada

We’re sharing stories from our latest edition of Update Magazine (Summer 2023), starting with this beautiful op-ed by Community Health Worker Yukie Imada. Look for print copies of Update Magazine in the mail or at your workplace!


Most of the clients I support driving to their homes and delivering care to their doors—are seniors. When I look at them, I see my mom and dad, who are now in their 80’s. When I meet their families, I think of my sister, supporting our mom through her dementia diagnosis.

All three live in Japan, which I left one final time in 2011 to settle in BC. I had two young children, and as a migrant parent, finding steady work that could pay the bills was not easy. In home care, I saw an opportunity anddecided to pursue a job as a Community Health care Worker (CHW) to support my kids. 

But I wasn’t acting on maternal instinct, alone; I was thinking of my own parents, an ocean away in Japan. I thought that if I can’t be there for them in their old age, I want to be there for someone else’s parents. If I can’t be beside my sister, I want to be there for BC’s family caregivers, to alleviate the pressure that they experience. In this last round of bargaining, my ability to keep doing this work for British Columbians was at stake.

To save our jobs and home care we needed a real recruitment and retention plan that would fix our under-resourced and understaffed teams. Financial parity with our counterparts at medical facilities, protections against violence, and provisions for mental health were also a must. 

As of March 1, 2023, we secured a new contract with all these improvements and more. As a CHW this win affects me directly. It means I can afford my bills and that I’ll be less susceptible to burnout. But it also means I can pay it forward and support health care at all levels, which is the true value of quality home care. 

By preventing falls and monitoring medication intake, CHWs protect individuals and help them maintain their independence. We also protect families by ensuring that sick, recovering, disabled or elderly relatives can stay connected with loved ones in the comfort of their own homes. Last but not least, we keep communities strong by ensuring that vulnerable people stay woven into the fabric of their neighborhoods. 

Even though the work that we do is limited to private homes, it affects the public health care system as a whole and, therefore, every British Columbian. For instance, by doing regular house visits and providing mobility exercises, we prevent overcrowding in emergency rooms and continuing-care centres, where facilities staff are severely understaffed and overworked. 

Everything is related. A solid Community Health care system is the foundation for an all-around healthy society. My mom always said everything feeds into each other. You can’t distinguish giving from receiving because they’re related. Just as she cared for me, I do for my community what I would do for her if she required the same level of care as my clients. Similarly, this new contract gives CHWs the support that we need to keep supporting our neighbors. 

Save-On-Foods Bargaining Update July 4

Late last week, we reached a tentative agreement with Save-On-Foods that is being recommended by your committee. You and your coworkers made your priorities going into negotiations clear, and the Bargaining Committee worked hard to amplify your voices and address those key issues. Your Bargaining Committee, made up of Save-On-Foods members from across the province, is very proud of the improvements that they were able to secure. That is why they are recommending a YES Vote on the tentative agreement!

So what comes next? Since late last week, our staff and Committee have been planning out the rollout of the terms of the tentative agreement and the voting timeline. Here is a timeline of what you can expect in the coming days and weeks regarding the tentative agreement and how to vote:

July 10: Advisory Committee and Steward Zoom Calls

We have committed to ensuring our workplace leaders, including the Advisory Committee and Shop Stewards, are informed about the terms of the tentative agreement first. On Monday, July 10, we are holding Zoom calls with the Save-On-Foods Advisory Committee and with Shop Stewards to go over the details of the tentative agreement so that these worksite leaders can support you and answer any questions you may have. If you are a Shop Steward, we will send you an invite to this meeting shortly.

July 11: Members Receive Tentative Agreement Details

We will email out the tentative agreement, including a summary of what was bargained, the morning of July 11 so that all members have time to review it before the Telephone Town Hall at 7 pm. Bargaining Committee members and staff will also be available to answer any questions you have throughout the week.

July 11: All Member Telephone Town Hall Meeting7pm

We are holding a Telephone Town Hall on July 11 from 7–8 pm PDT. All Save-On-Foods members can attend to hear about the deal and ask questions live. Participating in the Town Hall is as easy as answering your phone. If we don’t have your number, check your email for more information. A reminder for this call will go out on July 10. You can also stream the call live and ask your questions online.

July 12–15: Online Voting Period

Online voting will be held from WEDNESDAY, July 12 @ 12 pm PDT to SATURDAY, July 15 @ 12 pm PDT. Your voting credential will be sent to your email address on Wednesday, July 12.

Frequently Asked Questions:

When can I see the details of the tentative agreement? 📎

We know that you are eager to see the improvements to your wages and working conditions that you will be voting on. These documents will be reviewed with your Advisory Committee and Shop Stewards on July 10. The documents will be available on July 11 for all members to review and ask any questions you have.

Who do I contact if I don’t receive Voting Credentials in my inbox? 🗳️

If you don’t get your credentials on Wednesday, July 12 @ 12 pm, please call 1-800-661-3708 or [email protected] with your full name, employee ID, store number, email address, and phone number.

If you don’t have a computer or consistent access to the internet on your phone or at home, the union will request that your store managers make the onsite computer available for voting so that everyone can participate!

I can’t attend the Telephone Town Hall. How do I get my questions answered?

If you have questions about bargaining, the voting process, or this message please email [email protected]. Continue to check your email for updates about the Telephone Town Hall and stay tuned for a detailed summary of the tentative agreement early next week. We will also include those documents on the Save-on-Foods bargaining hub when they are ready.

Again, our Bargaining Committee is strongly recommending this tentative agreement, and we are looking forward to sharing the details with you shortly! Please remember to keep a close eye on your email for all the details as they come out, as well as more voting information. We are doing this vote online to make it as accessible as we can to all members (including those who may be on vacation), and we will have staff monitoring phones and emails to answer any questions you have about the document once it is sent out by email on July 11. Bargaining Committee members and staff will be in as many work locations as we can reach beginning July 11. Please ensure all of your coworkers have their emails up to date so they get the information that they need to vote.

In solidarity,

Kim Novak
President, UFCW 1518