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.

Support from MLAs Regarding Making Truth & Reconciliation Day a Statutory Holiday

After calling on the provincial and federal governments to mandate Truth and Reconciliation Day as a statutory holiday for all workers, the UFCW 1518 Indigenous Committee received support from BC Members of the Legislative Assembly.

In January, the UFCW 1518 Indigenous Committee sent a letter to BC Premier John Horgan, Yukon Premier Sandy Silver, BC Members of the Legislative Assembly, BC Members of Parliament and Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Marc Miller, asking them to mandate National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a statutory holiday by September 30, 2022.

To amplify the Committee’s voice, over 540 UFCW 1518 members signed the petition to put pressure on the BC government to take this critical step.

In an email response, MLA Aman Singh stated, “It is my pleasure to fully support and work to achieve a lawful/paid statutory holiday in Canada.” MLA Brittny Anderson also responded in support and stated that she agrees Truth and Reconciliation Day should be a statutory holiday and she will advocate for it.

In a letter sent from the Office of the Yukon Premier, Premier Sandy Silver confirmed that they will be reaching out to the Yukon First Nations governments and the public to seek input on whether the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation should become a general holiday for all employees in the Yukon.

The UFCW 1518 Indigenous Committee is awaiting an official response from the BC Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation after the letter was forwarded to them by the Office of the BC Premier for follow up.

As the union and the Committee await these additional responses, we will continue to advocate for this important issue. UFCW 1518’s goal is to make sure that every worker will get the opportunity to take time to reflect on the legacy of colonialism. Additionally, we believe that every Indigenous person should have the chance to mark the day properly and take the time to heal and address the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual harms caused by residential schools with their families and communities.

If you want to join and take action on this important initiative, you can sign the petition by clicking here.

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.