Admin Staff and Union Reps Vote Yes on New Contract, Back to Work this Week

We are pleased to share that late last month Admin Staff voted in favour of a new contract, and late last week, Union Reps voted in favour of a new contract, after receiving a clarification document from the mediator.

All UFCW 1518 staff will be back to work this week.

We have accomplished the mandate of our Executive Board on behalf of our members by ratifying a contract that is fair to our staff and responsible to our membership, and we are pleased to be welcoming our staff back and moving forward.

Workers’ Rights In B.C

You have rights. Here’s how to use them.

You have the right to join a union in BC. And if your employer tries to sway your support for a union, you can challenge them at the Labour Relations Board (LRB) with the union at your side.

You are protected by the Labour Code the moment a union organizing drive starts. The Code is your legal shield. It allows your union to lodge complaints on your behalf, even before a union vote and before you pay dues. When they receive a complaint, the Labour Board often assigns a third-party Special Investigation Officer to help the union and employer resolve the dispute informally. If the complaint cannot be resolved informally, it moves to a hearing.

Below are typical scenarios, pulled from the B.C. LRB’s website, that can be challenged with a union complaint:

Your boss claims they can’t provide the raise that they planned to give you a month ago because of the union drive.
Your boss asks you if you signed a union card.
An employer encourages staff to form a committee or join their staff association instead of the union.
A supervisor telling staff that the plant would be closed and their work outsourced to another country if the union was certified.
Click Here

Some red flags

Your manager starts calling you and your coworkers at home.

Your employer pulls you into one-on-one meetings.

When your employer does either of these and starts asking you about the organizing drive, or how you plan to vote, or bashing the union, be wary. Talk to the union you're working with about potentially filing a complaint.

Young Cineplex workers in B.C. are fighting for their rights and joining UFCW 1518

The Code bans employers from firing, threatening to fire, suspending, transferring, laying off, refusing to hire or discriminating against workers for wanting to participate in, promote, support, or form a union.

If your manager or supervisor is singling you out and changing your working conditions shortly after you’ve started talking about unionizing, or around the time you signed a petition, talk to us about filing a complaint at [email protected]

UFCW 1518 has won many workers their jobs back after they were unfairly fired. Read the success stories here.


Talk to a union organizer about filing a complaint. Your boss cannot offer you benefits, bonuses, pizza parties or any perks in exchange for voting against a union. Bribes like this are not only in violation of Section 6 of The Code, but they’re also a weak attempt to try and make you accept less than you are worth.

But who wants small perks in place of permanent protections anyways? Without a union, it’s harder to negotiate a good contract, and without a good written contract, you have no say over your pay, benefits, health & safety and more – the boss can go back on a promise or cut your pay and benefits whenever they like.

If you and your coworkers vote to join a union, your employer is legally obligated to negotiate a contract with you, which gives you the power to get what you deserve.

The Code protects you when your union files a complaint on your behalf or when you participate in other activities at the Labour Board, including:

  • A Board proceeding
  • Acting as a witness in a Board proceeding
  • Making a disclosure that is required by a Board proceeding

What are employers not allowed to do in response to your participation in the above?

  • Dismiss you
  • Refuse to employ you
  • Discriminate against you in terms of your working conditions
  • Intimidate or coerce you
  • Threaten to do any of these things

Unions have your back

While all workers do have rights, remember that until you are a union member and you have a contract, you are still vulnerable.

During an organizing drive, it’s critical that you only “talk union” and participate in union activities, such as petition signing, rallies and more, on your unpaid breaks or before and after your shift. That way your boss doesn’t have an excuse to punish you.

While employers can get emotional when their employees start the process to join a union, they only rarely stoop to illegal behaviour that violates the labour code. That’s because the penalties and legal costs are very high – they’re designed to be so that employers are discouraged from violating workers’ rights.

If you decide that you want to fight for fairness at work by joining a union, know that we will stand with you and help you every step of the way. All you need to do is hold your head up high, stick to your values, and pull together with your coworkers to create a better workplace.

New Contract at Sointula Co-Op!

Workers at Sointula Co-Op sent in a ringing endorsement of a new collective agreement that will bring major improvements to their workplace.

Workers celebrate the new contract at Sointula Co-Op!
Workers celebrate the new contract at Sointula Co-Op!

100% of voters said “yes” to the new contract. These retail workers came together and bargained hard for important contract gains, including:

  • Wage increases between 8.3% and 30% over the life of the 4-year agreement
  • For the first year, wage increases range as high as $4.25. The majority of the members will be earning at least $2/hr above the living wage for the area
  • Retroactive pay on all wage increases to May 31, 2021
  • Minimum wage adjustment so that no member ever falls to a minimum wage again
  • Increased hours restriction, up to twice per year
  • Easier access to educational leave (down to 2 years)
  • New Shop Steward Orientation on paid employer time

“The bargaining committee at Sointula worked hard to get major improvements that will help with the increasing cost of living,” said UFCW 1518 Negotiator Stephen Portman. “They showed what workers are capable of achieving when they stand together and demand better.”

Congratulations to workers at Sointula on their new contract and a big thank you to Bargaining Committee members Janet Pohto and Monty Hals.

If you work in retail and are interested in improving your workplace, learn more at ufcw1518.com/join-us.

UFCW 1518 Launches New Tool for Reporting Unsafe Work

#BossesUnmasked allows all BC workers to anonymously share experiences

Throughout the pandemic, UFCW 1518 has armed working people with the information and tools they need to protect themselves, their coworkers and their communities. Today that work continues.

Masks are a proven, effective protection against COVID-19, which is why they continue to be mandatory in indoor public spaces. But some employers are not enforcing mandatory masking. This puts all frontline staff and our communities at risk.

Many workers are reporting situations where they’ve had to serve unmasked members of the public. In some cases, these situations have escalated to harassment.

Despite the public health measures, some employers are still failing to enforce safe working conditions. That is why UFCW 1518 is launching the #BossesUnmasked Campaign. The campaign asks all workers to anonymously submit their experiences dealing with unmasked members of the public. Workers can also submit other health & safety violations.

Click here to anonymously report a health & safety violation.

Everyone has the right to raise health & safety concerns with their employers and to refuse unsafe work without reprisal. However, not all workers will feel comfortable going directly to their managers. Workers who do not have the protection of a union tend to be reluctant to raise health & safety issues with their managers. Anonymous submissions give everyone an equal chance to add their voice to the growing uproar over unsafe working conditions, so we can work together to solve this problem.

To file an anonymous health & safety report, go to https://ufcw1518.typeform.com/to/fiMYdRy

More Original Farm Budtenders join UFCW 1518, Smoking out Boss’s Anti-Union Campaign. 

New members will bargain alongside Victoria coworkers for a first contract. 

The staff at Original Farm’s Hillside cannabis dispensary in Victoria care about their community — a lot. 

“There’s so much emotional work that goes into what we do,” says one worker at the shop. “I’ve had customers that come in and they have a breakdown halfway through our conversation…I feel for them so deeply,” but the hardworking staff can only support customers fully if the employer supports them. Up to now, Original Farm workers have not felt supported. 

“The fact that we’re not capable of being able to talk openly about that sort of stuff,” is a problem the Hillside employee explains, and it’s one of many reasons staff decided to harness their collective power and unionize this year. 

The 14 workers joined the BC Budtenders Union last week, after a successful certification vote that came on the heels of a not-so-successful employer campaign to stop the organizing drive. Hillside staff didn’t budge when Original Farm pushed back; they just raised their voices even higher and remained committed to building social justice from the shop floor up. 

They’re not the only ones celebrating either. Budtenders at the downtown Victoria shop joined UFCW 1518 last year, and thanks to a worker-led effort to win a common employer application for these two groups, Hillside members and Downtown members will bargain their first collective agreement together. 

More voices mean more power for these cannabis connoisseurs to create the change they want, need, and deserve. For too long, Hillside staff have suffered chronic short-staffing, high management turnover, job insecurity, and more. 

“Trying to work in that environment feels like you’re at the edge of a sandbank cliff,” the worker adds. 

These members are determined to rebuild that sinking foundation on a culture of care by applying the frontline expertise that they use every day. In bargaining the team plans to prioritize several workplace improvements, including: 

  • Better compensation and health benefits, including living wages that reflect their specialized and challenging work and keeps up with rising rent.
  • Protections against budtender burnout. 
  • Protection against bullying and sexual harassment.
  • Equity-building language (including protections against nepotism).
  • Integrating mental health awareness programs and tools into the shop for staff and customers.

Across Victoria, UFCW 1518 members are re-inventing the cannabis industry with innovative and aspirational contract language, such as employer-paid cannabis sommelier training and tasting discounts. Our union is proud and excited to welcome our newest members to this growing movement, which covers close to 70 percent of cannabis retailers in Victoria. 

Like the workers at all these shops, Hillside staff have been breathing life into the cannabis industry all through the pandemic, interacting with customers, building product knowledge, and creating a comfortable environment for Victorians. They are the experts on their work, and they should have a real say in their working conditions, because when they do, the whole community benefits. 

“I grew up in Victoria and am really proud to have an opportunity like this to help my community grow,” says one Bud Union member. “Cannabis workers were dealt a rough hand through the process of legalization, and it feels wonderful not only to have the opportunity to advocate for ourselves, but to clear a path and set higher advocacy standards for future workers.” 

If you are a cannabis worker and would like to learn more about joining a union, check out the BC Budtender Homepage.  

Uber and UFCW Reach Historic Agreement on Driver Representation

UFCW Canada and Uber reached a historic agreement today that will give more than 100,000 Uber and Uber Eats drivers in Canada strong representation at work. The agreement is a huge step forward in gig worker rights that will advance worker safety, pay transparency, and access to benefits.

This agreement comes after six Uber drivers in BC spoke out about being deactivated from the Uber app when they refused unsafe work. Hundreds of Uber drivers came forward to UFCW 1518 in the weeks that followed, and UFCW 1518 has been organizing these workers and pursuing justice for them. These six drivers now have a formal date on February 24 to have their cases heard.

The new agreement will ensure that no driver faces reprisals for exercising their right to bring forward issues at work. It will build a strong framework of health and safety in app-based work and set a new precedent in an industry that has been growing every year.

“We have been fighting for gig worker rights in the new economy for years,” said UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak. “For too long, gig work has been a race to the bottom for these workers, who have endured lower wages, unsafe working conditions, and arbitrary firings. Today’s agreement means that we can set a new, higher standard for worker rights in the app-based work world.”

The national agreement will see UFCW Canada become the first union in the world to represent Uber drivers. Workers on the app-based platform will have access to:

  • a strong voice at work when issues arise
  • representation for deactivation and account disputes
  • joint health and safety meetings, with a committee consisting of Uber drivers, UFCW Canada, and Uber representatives
  • representation for day-to-day on the job issues
  • quarterly meetings with senior Uber management to discuss and resolve concerns

UFCW Canada will provide representation to Uber drivers and delivery workers and will continue to organize other app-based workers to join a union and gain the benefits of collective bargaining. App-based workers can learn about how joining a union will give them even more power at work at ufcw1518.com/join-us.

For more information on the historic 5-year agreement, go to ufcw.ca

Workers at Trees Cannabis Vote to Join the BC Budtenders’ Union

Budtenders and Supervisors at the Trees Cannabis retail locations in Victoria, BC (Lekwungen Territory) have voted to join the BC Budtenders’ Union, and UFCW Local 1518.

As the cannabis industry adapts to legalization, and the business model changes, this is a critical time to shape how the industry will look for workers. Trees Cannabis has been at the forefront of change in this industry, and we know that improvements that we make to working conditions here will have a ripple effect on Victoria’s other cannabis retail businesses that have always followed close behind.

As budtenders, we want to be compensated for the skilled labour we provide. The costs of living in this city have skyrocketed, and it is becoming unreasonable to afford to live in Victoria. At the same time, there is a worry that as new business interests enter BC’s cannabis industry, they will push down wages and working conditions.

“We are required to have a deep understanding of the cannabis plant, and must provide compassionate customer service,” Kate, a Trees Cannabis supervisor, explained. “Working as a budtender is skilled and professional work. All budtenders should be paid a living wage, receive ongoing education, and have the collective bargaining power to shape how our work is done.”

Many of us were a part of this industry during the legacy market eras. We feel a strong connection to this work and the industry that was built from our labour. The cannabis sector has been largely represented by marginalized communities who risked criminal records in exchange for higher-wage work. Now that we see the legalization of the industry, it is incredibly important to us that budtending is safe for all workers, including the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities that make up the workforce, and properly accommodates and includes workers with various accessibility requirements.

At Trees Cannabis, budtenders and supervisors spent weeks having conversations amongst each other about the benefits of joining a union and voted in favour on June 18th, 2021. Trees Cannabis workers are looking forward to legally protected job security, access to education and benefits, and earning living wages so that there is a future in this industry that we can look forward to.

Approved by the Trees Workers’ Organizing Committee

More and more budtenders are joining the BC Bud Union. Budtenders and cannabis-industry workers interested in winning improvements at their workplace can learn more and join at ufcw1518.com/cannabis.

Guide: How to resolve problems in the workplace

Having good communication in the workplace is one of the best ways to resolve problems, prevent future issues, and to be healthy and happy at work. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to bring a problem to your manager’s attention, and it can be very difficult to manage work relationships when there is conflict.

Your union is here to help you when you need an advocate in the workplace. The best place to start is with your steward and/or your union representative. Not sure who these people are? Have a look at your union bulletin board. If you can’t find them there, get in touch with us at [email protected] or 604.526.1518.

It is important to follow the correct procedure when bringing problems up with management. Following the right roadmap will help you to know who to talk to, ensure that you have documentation, and get help when you need it.

The illustration below outlines the process to resolve problems in the workplace. If you have noticed unsafe conditions at work, know that you always have the right to refuse unsafe work. As with resolving problems at work, there is an important procedure for refusing unsafe work, and you can read about that here.

An illustration of how to resolve problems in the workplace

Budtenders Become Essential Service Workers During COVID-19

In a remarkable departure from how the cannabis industry was treated in the past, British Columbia’s cannabis workers have been deemed essential service workers during the COVID-19 crisis. This means that BC’s cannabis stores are encouraged to keep operating as long as they maintain physical distancing measures and put enhanced sanitation procedures in place.

According to the Ministry of Public Safety, essential services are those businesses and services that are “essential to preserving life, health, public safety and basic societal functioning.” They are “the services British Columbians rely on in their daily lives.”

British Columbia joins several other provinces and states, including Ontario, Quebec, and California in declaring cannabis dispensaries an essential service.

Unlike in the past, when you could be arrested and jailed for selling or buying cannabis products, the work of Budtenders is now on par with other front-line essential workers like grocery and pharmacy workers. They are performing an essential service that helps to maintain some normalcy during this crisis and provides needed medicine for medical cannabis patients.

Medical cannabis advocates have pointed out how important it is to keep the legal market open during the pandemic, as if dispensaries close medical patients may need to seek cannabis from illegal underground sources. These sources do not have the added scrutiny of the legal market in terms of health and safety protections, and it is difficult to imagine how physical distancing could be maintained for vulnerable medical cannabis patients.

In recognition for their work in helping to flatten the curve on the Covid-19 pandemic, unionized budtenders at Clarity Cannabis are receiving a $2/hour “hero” pay boost and a secure return-to-work benefit. Budtenders also have access to additional child care benefits granted to front-line workers.

UFCW 1518 fights for fairness for over 23,000 union members across BC and the Yukon. Click here for information about joining our Cannabis division, or you can connect with an organizer to learn more.