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.