Budtenders and staff at three Seed & Stone cannabis shops are celebrating this week, after unanimously voting in favour of their first collective agreement, which will introduce several protections and workplace improvements into the Victoria and Delta dispensaries. The news comes just one week after members of the same union ratified a first contract at two Farm Dispensary locations.
Staff employed at the Seed & Stone Victoria shops joined the BC Budtenders Union – a division of the UFCW 1518 – in 2021. In 2022, workers at the Delta location got mobilized and joined their coworkers, strengthening the union’s power at the bargaining table.
“There’s a reason that 75 percent of the private dispensaries in Victoria have organized with us,” says UFCW 1518 Secretary-Treasurer Patrick Johnson. “Cannabis workers are realizing that with a union they have a voice, and the more of them that join the movement, the more power they can build.”
By bargaining together, these unionists were able to maximize pressure on the employer and come to an agreement on life-changing workplace improvements, including:
- Higher starting rates (an increase of about 15%)
- Hourly scale with guaranteed wage increases
- Improvements to breaks and scheduling
- A grievance process and shop-steward language
“With this contract, the Seed & Stone staff have achieved a fairer and much more respectful workplace,” says Johnson. “Moving forward, they can expect safer working conditions, more opportunities to have a say in how they’re treated, as well as better wages.”
Now that the Seed & Stone deal is ratified, every dispensary in Victoria with BC-Budtenders-Union representation boasts a collective agreement. Across stores, members have revolutionized the industry. As the union grows, diversifies and ages, the standard that they set is only going to get higher.
“Organizing can be a bit intimidating,” Johnson admits, “but their courage pays off, if they stay united. The Seed & Stone staff are a perfect example of how far a calculated risk can carry you. By taking the plunge and organizing, they learned what they’re capable of, then they brought that confidence to the bargaining table and won big.”
The BC Budtender Union is excited for mainland cannabis workers to expand their organizing efforts. This work is already underway; just today, workers at Yaletown Cannabis Store in Vancouver formed a union with the BC Budtenders division. It takes a lot of passion and persistence to launch a movement, but it all starts with a phone call or an email. If you are a cannabis worker in retail or grow-ops, contact UFCW 1518 today.