From Big-Box to Boutique — All Workers Need Unions!

Do you want a say in your wages, health & safety, work-life balance, dress code, mental health, schedules, staffing, overtime, and how management treats you? If so visit ufcw1518.com/join-us because you’re not alone. These are the kinds of issues that concern most employed people, regardless of their employer.

But nowhere are we seeing more of a push for justice than in retail. Grocery is no exception, where workers are taking control and designing the future of the industry, for the benefit of themselves, their families, and British Columbians, not the small handful of CEOs hoarding wealth at the top of the food chain.

At mega grocer Save-On-Foods, where the majority of UFCW 1518 members work, employees not only rose to the challenge of continuing to serve the public during a pandemic last year; they also raised the bar for industry standards, securing several protections in their new agreement, including:

  • Starting wages well above minimum wage
  • Automatic periodic pay raises for staff.
  • Stronger job security.
  • Expanded vacation.
  • Birth-control coverage.
  • And more!

Facing a giant — and winning — is no easy feat. It takes tenacity and a lot of determination, but it’s not the only success worth celebrating. As our members at small stores have shown, even a tiny workforce has big struggles and big aspirations and needs a union. During the COVID crisis alone, staff at two small, beloved, local boutiques joined UFCW 1518.

Unions Protect Local

At Matchstick Coffee shops, the employees’ fight for fairness was a proxy for a much bigger battle brewing against sexism, racism and abuse, which would have been nearly impossible to crush without a union.

It all started when former baristas, bakers and other staff launched a private Instagram account to swap stories about their horrific experiences with the former owner. Then, in 2021, current staff joined the chorus, calling for real, lasting change. Their bold and brave organizing move to join UFCW 1518 paid off. In July of 2021, they negotiated a strong collective agreement that not only introduced better wages, a health spending account, and 3 weeks of vacation, but also Joint Labour Management Meetings to promote a more harmonious relationship between management and employees.

The organizing drive at Cartems Donuts was an entirely different story. When the bakery’s Vancouver staff came to UFCW 1518, they mostly agreed that Cartems is a pretty great place to work. That didn’t stop them from organizing though. And why should it? There’s always room to make a job better and fairer, and there’s always room for democracy in the workplace, especially at a shop that claims to be built on “smiles” and “conversation.”

A truly local business supports locals, which must include the staff that keep it running. Both the Matchstick and Cartems organizing drives prove that everyone should have a say in their workplace. Cartems is a reminder that workers need a way to hold their employer accountable to their values, while Matchstick is a reminder that just because a business promotes itself as artisanal doesn’t stop it from acting like the next big corporate chain. Only union power can do that!

As more shops — in particular, grocers — jump onto the “buy local, eat organic, self-care, think green” bandwagon, working people might find themselves in different situations, but the best course of action always is to unionize!
Are you a grocery worker and want to ensure local grocers support locals? Join UFCW 1518 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

Statement from President Kim Novak on Protecting Workers from Violence and Harassment

For nearly two years now, front-line workers in grocery and retail stores, pharmacies, industrial food processing plants, cannabis stores, and home and community support have diligently followed all public health laws while continuing to serve the public during a global pandemic. 

The pandemic hasn’t been easy on anybody, but those on the front lines have been steadfast through this relentless crisis. And while the vast majority of the public has shown respect and gratitude for their incredible work and public health orders, alarmingly, there have been segments of the public who have refused to follow public health orders, putting our members’ health and safety at risk. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic has worn on, this segment has grown, leading to increased reports of unacceptable behaviour towards the front-line workers that UFCW 1518 represents.

Front-line workers have experienced abuse, harassment, and even assault at the hands of members of the public. Their personal safety has been compromised by people who refuse to wear masks, who refuse to keep distance, who mock or intimidate those who are wearing masks. They have taken their frustrations out on the working people who are just doing their best. 

These acts of harassment and violence do not merit tolerance, and they should be swiftly and decisively addressed. No worker in this country should be subject to unsafe work; the right to refuse is a fundamental tenet of our workplace safety laws. 

An individual’s discomfort does not trump the rights of others. UFCW 1518 members wear masks for their entire shift. Wearing a mask for the short time you’re shopping or receiving medical care is a small and necessary inconvenience, not a violation of anyone’s rights (unless you have a valid medical exemption). 

While UFCW 1518 members have witnessed unacceptable behaviour, we have also seen Canadians come together through this pandemic. Over 89% of Canadians who are eligible to be vaccinated HAVE been vaccinated. Because so many Canadians have chosen to follow public health recommendations, we have seen hospitalizations rates decline and we are now seeing restrictions begin to lift. 

Any extremist movement that causes disruption throughout the country, including levelling abuse at front-line workers, is putting their personal preferences over the rights of workers and everyone else to be healthy and safe. These actions against workers have not helped to bring the pandemic to an end. 

In the coming days, it is critically important that we continue to follow public health orders and treat front-line workers with the respect and dignity they deserve. As restrictions lift, we must continue to put the health, safety and rights of front-line workers first.

As their union, UFCW 1518 will do everything in its power to protect these workers from unsafe conditions and intolerable behaviour from the public.

Workers at Cineplex Richmond Join UFCW 1518

UFCW 1518 welcomed workers at Cineplex Richmond to the union family today!

The workers at the Richmond location voted overwhelmingly to join UFCW 1518 and start building a better, more equitable workplace.

“The young workers at Cineplex Richmond inspired us with their solidarity through this difficult time,” said UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak. “These workers have dealt with nearly two years of non-stop uncertainty as Cineplex closed and reopened with various restrictions. They show the collective power of workers, even in a traditionally precarious workplace.”

Workers at Cineplex Richmond will join fellow union members at Cineplex Coquitlam, who reached out to UFCW 1518 in 2019. Workers at the Coquitlam location have been bargaining throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. They are working on several important bargaining priorities that will improve their working conditions and quality of life.

Across Canada, workers in various customer-service locations have been turning to unions to build their power at work. These workers are coming to realize the power that they wield when they stand together. They are using collective bargaining to fight for significant improvement in wages, benefits, hours, and health and safety conditions.

Cineplex worker Adrian Owen was jubilant at the union win and had this to say about the successful campaign: “It was a long trip but I’m glad it finally worked out in favour of workers’ rights.”

Congratulations to the workers at Cineplex Richmond on your successful union vote, and welcome to UFCW 1518!

If you want to improve your working conditions and fight for fairness, go to our Join Us page and contact an organizer today.

2021: A Year in Review

The year 2021 certainly had its ups and downs and despite many of the hardships and challenges, we have built momentum and accomplished so many things.

As we near the end of 2021, we want to look back and give you an overview of what we have accomplished this year and provide you with insight into what you can expect as we move forward into 2022.


After learning from the challenges of 2020, we picked up our speed in 2021 to continue to fight for our members. Here are some of the things that we accomplished during the first quarter of the year:

  • In January, UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak wrote a letter to the BC government asking to have frontline workers receive early access to COVID-19 vaccines. This came to fruition in the second quarter.
  • Alberni Co-op and Ucluelet Co-op ratified their new agreement in January, which included wage increases.


  • Cartems ratified their first collective agreement in February winning improvements, such as establishing seniority, a probation period and a tip policy in addition to severance pay and determining mandatory rest period between shifts.
  • Potanicals Green Growers workers negotiated and ratified their first collective agreement, becoming the first cannabis growing operation and extraction facility to unionize in Canada.
  • Budtenders at Clarity Cannabis also ratified their first collective agreement winning increases, sommelier training and scheduled raises.
  • In February, Save-on-Foods workers ratified a new contract that brought industry-leading and life-changing wage increases.
Members at Save-On-Foods voted to ratify their contract.


  • After fighting a sexist skirt policy, workers at Boston Pizza were welcomed into the union.
  • Members at Colonial Farms in Armstrong, BC ratified a five-year collective agreement that features major wage and workplace improvements.


  • In March, we called on the government to grant workers paid time off for COVID-19 vaccination appointments. As a result, the BC government announced in April that employers are required to cover three paid sick days at full pay until the end of 2021. Soon after, the government announced that it will create a permanent paid sick program that will launch in 2022.
  • In April, we welcomed budtenders from the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club to the union.
  • We also fought for gig workers to have free short-term parking. And after talking to politicians, a few municipalities are now creating short-term parking solutions for gig workers. Victoria and Vancouver are working on it.
  • During the April Education Month, we continued to use our digital education platform and had the highest number of registrants with hundreds of members taking on union courses.
UFCW 1518 members building their workplace skills through union courses.


  • After months of campaigning for grocery workers to be prioritized for vaccinations, members were provided priority access.
  • UFCW 1518 sent a letter to the BC government to prioritize vaccinations for grocery store workers under 18 and soon after grocery store members under 18 were able to get their vaccines.


  • In June, the CLC Virtual Convention kicked off with a record number of UFCW 1518 delegates. The meeting determined the actions that will set the agenda for Canada’s labour movement.
  • UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak attended the National Indigenous Rights Conference along with UFCW 1518 members to honour and commemorate the children found at the former residential school in Kamloops.
  • Workers from Trees Cannabis voted to join UFCW 1518.
  • After UFCW 1518 published a press release about the shortage of home support workers and how Interior Health’s scheduling program is making it more difficult to retain home support workers in the region, Interior Health wrote back and met with Kim to discuss the issues.
  • Workers at Cherry Park Retirement Residence and Rossdown Natural Foods ratified their new agreements, which include benefit improvements and wage increases.


  • In July, 18 young members from UFCW 1518 virtually attended the UFCW National Young Workers Internship program.
  • In partnership with Sobeys and Save-On-Foods, we donated a total of $10,000 to the United Way for the Period Promise campaign.
  • We celebrated pride by sponsoring Vancouver Pride’s anti-racism workshops and sent hundreds of union pride T-shirts across the province.
  • Matchstick Coffee bargained hard through a pandemic and won a strong first contract.


  • In early August, we reminded the BC government to ensure that gig workers are included in BC’s universal paid sick leave program.
  • At the end of August, we sent a letter to Dr. Henry asking that mask mandates be reinstated in stores that are not covered by the mandatory vaccination order and that stores be required to reinstate crowd control measures like wayfinding arrows to minimize contact between workers and members of the public. This is all to continue to protect our essential workers.
  • Hornby Island Co-op and Mid-Island Co-op ratified their new collective agreements with a 100% unanimous vote.
  • Avalon Dairy ratified their first contract and won major workplace improvements.
  • We had our 2nd annual Human Rights Week with online events featuring panel discussions on human rights, how to take action for Truth and Reconciliation and be an ally, and discussions on mental health as a human rights issue, particularly looking at the intersecting impacts of racism, colonialism and class on mental health.
  • Donald’s Fine Foods workers and workers at Non-Public Fund Employees in Esquimalt, BC also ratified their new collective agreements winning workplace improvements.
Members at Mid-Island Co-op gathered to celebrate their new contract.


  • In September, we sent a letter to Save-On-Foods, Sobeys and other employers calling on them to grant their workers a statutory holiday on September 30 in recognition of Truth and Reconciliation Day. A few companies, such as MEC, Lifestyle Markets and Clarity Cannabis, recognized the statutory holiday; however, other companies did not grant their workers a statutory holiday on September 30. We will continue to put pressure on the BC government to mandate September 30 as a statutory holiday. And in September 30, we announced our new Indigenous Committee made up of 5 passionate member activists from different Indigenous communities.
  • At the end of September, a group of health care members attended the Health Care Bargaining Virtual Conference to prepare for the upcoming negotiations for the new community health workers contract.


  • In October, after filing an unfair labour practice complaint against giant tech corporation Uber for unfairly firing Uber drivers without due process, the Labour Board met with the union to begin the process of addressing the workers’ complaints.
  • We held our annual Lobby Days event where, one by one, our members met with politicians and explained the need for recognizing Truth and Reconciliation Day as a statutory holiday, providing paid sick days, improving affordability in BC, fighting for gig workers’ rights and strengthening labour laws. Our members ensured that we’re moving the needle in fighting for issues that matter to our membership.
  • Annual fundraising for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada – BC/Yukon Region was a success with more than a million dollars raised for blood cancers.
  • President Kim Novak and UFCW 1518 staff and members met at the BC Legislature building with the BC Federation of Labour and other allies to campaign for 10 paid sick days to ensure that no one has to choose between paying their bills and keeping themselves and their families safe.
  • The UFCW 1518 Indigenous Committee held its first meeting to build the foundation of the committee and to advance the work of reconciliation within our union.
UFCW 1518 members lobbied the BC government and spoke directly to the Premier, Ministers and MLAs.

November and December

  • Three Safeway Extra stores (Willowbrook, Burquitlam and Dawson Creek) joined thousands of other UFCW 1518 members working at Safeway stores across the province under one superior contract.
  • More workers joined the BC Bud Division as we welcomed Burnside Buds, Seed and Stone Cannabis and The Original Farm.
  • Our November Education Month was another success as hundreds of members joined us on Zoom for member orientations, fundamental and advanced classes in stewarding, health and safety, bargaining, mental health first aid and other important topics.
  • In December, we held our annual Children’s Christmas party at the Burnaby Village Museum in Deer Lake. A few weeks after, members and their children met Santa via Zoom to let him know what they would like for Christmas.

Looking forward to 2022

As we approach 2022, the pandemic continues and we may face additional restrictions in the coming year. And while COVID-19 continues to be a challenge, we are in awe of your resilience and the incredible work that you continue to do on the frontlines.

We have a big year ahead with a lot of exciting work to be done. With your engagement and solidarity, we are certain that we can continue to improve workplaces across British Columbia and the Yukon.

We hope you are enjoying the season safely with your loved ones and that you are staying healthy.  We are better and stronger as a result of a trying year and have much to look forward to in 2022.

Happy holidays!

In solidarity,

The UFCW 1518 Team