Solidarity in Action: Grounds for Coffee Workers Unite and Secure Major Improvements 

In February of 2023, workers at Grounds for Coffee demonstrated a powerful show of solidarity with their colleagues by joining forces across two locations and organizing with UFCW 1518

Since then, they have been hard at work fighting for fairness at the bargaining table, and after months of hard work and advocacy, these workers have secured a groundbreaking win by ratifying a strong first collective agreement. This agreement solidifies many benefits for the hardworking café workers across both locations.  

Key highlights from the newly ratified contract include:

Wage increases that will provide all employees with a minimum $0.50 increase 

Wage progression tied to hours worked for fair compensation 

Minimum wage spread – a wage scale that accounts for minimum wage increases 

Health and Welfare Plan now accessible to those working average of thirty (30) hours a week with six months or more of service 

Advanced Schedules, allowing workers to plan ahead  

Joint Labour Management Meetings – a new avenue to promote a more harmonious relationship between management and employees 

Shop Stewards who will represent and defend the interests of their fellow employees 

Grounds for Coffee workers took their first step towards a more and equitable workplace a year ago, laying the foundation for positive change. Today, they are seeing the fruits of their labour, and the benefits of union membership.  

This collective win is a testament to Grounds for Coffee workers’ solidarity for one another, and their dedication towards building a better workplace.  


UFCW 1518 comprises tens of thousands of workers in BC’s retail sector. The Grounds for Coffee, Matchstick, Gallagher’s Coffee Bar & Café, and Cartems Donuts staff are fighting to improve morale and working conditions in BC’s cafés. If you are a café worker and would like to join a union, check out ufcw1518.com/join. 

Looking back at Union Wins in 2023

What a year it’s been!

Over the last year, we have been honored to stand with you and your co-workers, fighting for fairness at units across British Columbia and The Yukon. This year was a momentous one thanks to your hard work, dedication, and unwavering solidarity. We achieved remarkable milestones at Save-On-Foods, Sobeys, where UFCW 1518 members negotiated industry-leading contracts.

At industrial units, our members also stood together to win industry-leading contracts at workplaces like Sofina.

But our victories don’t end there. We’ve also successfully organized new units, empowering more workers to stand united for their rights and better futures We welcomed new members to your union at places like Earnest Ice Cream, Trees and Fireweed Cannabis, Gallaghers, Grounds for Coffee and more.

This holiday season, we extend our gratitude to every member, supporter, and ally who contributed to these incredible achievements. Your dedication and unity have made this possible.

As we gather with loved ones to celebrate, let’s look forward to building even more power in 2024.

Inspired by our achievements this year? Find out more about joining at ufcw1518.com/join

IGA #11 Celebrates Wages Increases and More

After a strong show of solidarity, workers at IGA 11 in Vancouver have ratified their newest Collective Agreement, ushering in improvements that will make their life in the city more affordable and the downtown store fairer.

The agreement features wage increases over three years, including a significant boost to the starting rate that will improve recruitment and staffing. Other changes to the wage grid will see members rewarded for their dedication sooner, reaching top-rate wages after only four years. It used to take workers six years of service before they earned top-rate.

Other notable improvements include better sick time and a paid, statutory holiday for September 30, in honour of National Truth and Reconciliation Day.

This Collective Agreement is reflective of a larger movement that’s growing across BC’s grocery stores, where workers are fighting for the respect that they deserve and dignified wages. After keeping businesses running through fires, floods and a pandemic, retail workers should be rewarded for their services, and UFCW 1518 is ensuring this happens by shoring up power in workplaces and building solidarity with the public.

Find out more about our fight for retail workers at the Respect Retail Workers homepage. If you’re interested in building power at your workplace, learn more about joining a union at ufcw1518.com/join-us.

Baristas & Bakers at “Grounds for Coffee” Unionize with UFCW 1518 

Positive change is brewing at Vancouver’s own Grounds For Coffee, where staff have joined forces across two locations and organized with UFCW 1518.

“We are very excited to welcome the newest members of our union from Grounds for Coffee,” says UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak. “They were clear and focused on why they wanted to join a union—stronger workplace protections and recognition for the work they do.” 

One of the staff’s main motivations for joining UFCW 1518 was to win real health & safety protections. The Alma St. Location functions as both a café and production centre, where staff make the pizza dough and cinnamon buns that launched Grounds for Coffee into local stardom. The production centre requires using specialized skills and equipment, for which staff want to get appropriate training and improved procedures so that they can do the job safely. 

“We realized we were working really hard for below industry standard wages, under less than ideal working conditions,” says one worker. “We’re also constantly short-staffed, so taking sick days or general time off becomes really hard to do, often because of how our shifts are booked…if any one person drops out, it makes hell for whoever is left over that day.” 

High turnover is a problem at the cafés, and the new UFCW 1518 members are determined to better their working conditions and improve workloads by prioritizing recruitment and retention. This initiative will include pushing for wage increases, but ultimately, it’s the staff’s commitment to respect and fairness that will win them a strong contract. The workers united on these two fronts, despite differences between the Commercial Drive and Alma St. locations.

At the Commercial Drive Grounds for Coffee, for instance, staff earn slightly more money on average than their Alma coworkers because a larger portion of their work is front-of-house, which is where the tips are made. But that didn’t stop them from showing solidarity with their sister location.

“These progressive workers, many of them young workers, are committed to building a stronger workplace for themselves and their coworkers,” says Novak. “And as their union, we are looking forward to working with them to do just that by amplifying their voices in the workplace to address concerns, make improvements and help build a better workplace for our members working there now and in the future,” says Novak. 

UFCW 1518 comprises tens of thousands of workers in BC’s retail sector. The Grounds for Coffee workers join Matchstick staff in the fight to improve morale and working conditions in BC’s cafes. If you are a cafe worker and would like to join a union, check out ufcw1518.com/join.

Unionized Pharmacy Workers to Receive Pay Increase

But the real cure for short-staffed counters is permanent wage increases

If we want to fix understaffing, we need fair wages for the important work Pharmacy Assistants and Registered Techs do everyday. After many discussions, UFCW 1518 and Sobeys have finally agreed to a $2/hr premium increase for ALL Sobeys Pharmacy members in BC.

“Competitive start rates are a good thing, don’t get me wrong,” says UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak, “They can certainly attract more resumes, but alone, they don’t guarantee long-term stability—and they don’t recognize the hard work of ALL employees who are working hard every day. To combat turnover, companies must promise their employees a good future so that they stay. And that means fair increases for all employees.

Just as pharmacies will benefit from new staff, they also need seasoned staff with a wealth of experience and knowledge that they’ve built on the job.

During the pandemic, pharmacy assistants’ workload exploded, as the public rushed to get vaccines, leaving UFCW 1518 members who work behind the counter emotionally and physically burnt out.

The new temporary premium that UFCW 1518 negotiated is a good first step towards fairer pay for these highly specialized and educated members. All pharmacy assistants and regulated techs at Freshco/Chalo and Safeway stores are set to receive the $2/hr top-up starting January 1, for all work hours worked between that date and March 31, 2023.

“We are pleased to see that Sobeys has finally agreed to recognize ALL pharmacy members with this program—now we need to push for permanent increases for all employees at the bargaining table,” says Novak.

Bargaining is set to begin between UFCW 1518 and Sobeys later this month. All staff across departments—including the pharmacies—will band together to push for better working conditions and compensation. President Novak says that bargaining is the Pharmacy members’ big chance to make wage increases and other recruitment and retention initiatives permanent.

“This is where our members can win real and lasting protections,” says Novak. “I hope Sobeys sees that these efforts will ultimately benefit their customers, who depend heavily on our members for so many of their needs.”

Source Office Furniture Ratifies New Contract

UFCW 1518 members employed with Source Office Furniture have ratified a new collective agreement thanks to the support members showed for their elected bargaining team. For the next three years, staff at the Vancouver store will benefit from several improvements to their working conditions.

Their monetary wins include:

  1. Wage Increases of 2.5% in years 1, 2 & 3.
  2. Increase in Forklift Trainer Premium from $1.00 to $1.50 per hour
  3. Increase in First Aid Premium from $20.00 to $30.00 per week
  4. Increase in Island Meal Allowance from $20.00 to $30.00
  5. Increase in Safety Footwear from $150.00 to $200.00 annually
  6. Increased Bereavement Leave

More and more retail workers are joining UFCW 1518 in the wake of COVID-19 to seek recognition for their specialized knowledge and to gain real protections in return for serving the public under challenging conditions. Do you work in a store and want to know how you and your coworkers can advocate for yourselves? Contact us at join@ufcw1518.com.

Yukon Save-On-Foods Ratifies Reopener Contract

Reopener ends with a successful ratification

Grocery workers employed at the sole Save-On-Foods in the Yukon secured significant improvements to their working conditions last week, after concluding a contract reopener with the west-coast grocer.

This is the first reopener since the contract was first established and included big gains: 

  • Significant Wage increases for all staff, including:
    • A big bump to starting rates
    • Increases to top rates for part-time and full-time workers
    • A new and improved wage grid for pharmacy assistants
    • A single wage grid for all employees
  • Improvements to vacation.
  • Night shift premium ($2.50)
  • Options for lunch breaks (either 30 minutes or 60 minutes)

Established a pathway to cross classification so employees are able to work across areas and capture more hours. 

As more and more UFCW 1518 collective agreements near expiry, workers at major grocers across the mainland and the Island are building capacity. At Save-On-Foods stores in BC, staff are working together and completing their bargaining surveys, where they are telling the employer what they need in their respective communities to make grocery jobs better and fairer.

Unionized Cannabis is Not Just a Phase

Latest BC Budtenders contract shows how the green movement has matured 

When the frontline budtenders at Seed & Stone ratified their first collective agreement last week, they didn’t just introduce impressive wage increases and improvements to one store. They brought radical change to three stores! As a result, all workers, present and future, who pass through their doors from here on, will benefit from this deal, which they can continue to improve in subsequent rounds of negotiations.

Some of the significant wins in the agreement include:

  • 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

One staff member, who was a leading voice in the first Seed & Stone organizing drive (at the Victoria Fort Street location), credits their incredible contract to the diversity of voices at the table. He said it was a big “morale boost” when the workers from the Delta location joined the union and sat with them at the bargaining table.

“They came to the table with their own energy and their own solidarity,” he says, “which kind of decentralized our movement and made things more threatening for the company and easier, from a solidarity standpoint, knowing that we were independently on the same page.”

By combining forces, workers from the Fort St., Gordon St., and Delta locations maximized their power. But this consolidation only worked because of the mobilizing that each store had done on its own prior to bargaining. In this way, The BC Budtenders Union, while still relatively young, is returning the labour movement to its roots. By decentralizing power, they’ve strengthened their unity and crystalized shared goals.

This power is evidenced in the high engagement at these shops. More dialogue and idea-sharing from everyone fosters community consciousness. What will raise everyone up, equally? This question was at the heart of the Delta organizing drive.

“What personally kept me going was the fact that many of my coworkers depend on this job to be able to afford food, housing, pay bills etc.,” says one member on the mainland. “Seeing how hard each of them work day in and out, I knew we needed things to change.”

Survival instincts often kickstart organizing drives. However, with widespread unionizing, workers can attain the resources that they need to push for more than the bare minimum (and win). One Seed & Stone budtender, who sat on the bargaining team, calls this phenomenon the “leapfrog effect.”

When a new worksite negotiates a contract, “we don’t get a lap around everyone but a few more steps [ahead],” the worker says. “Then the next contract, for either us or another company, gets a few more steps, and with more and more staff who are actualized, activated, and caring about their rights, organizing, and agitating…the quicker we’re all going to improve our industry.”


This change isn’t just theory. It’s happening. Almost three-quarters of the private cannabis retail shops in Victoria are unionized, and now that the Seed & Stone deal is complete, all boast a worker-centric collective agreement – each one better than the next.


Now that the workers at Seed & Stone have a deal with their employer, the next phase of their mobilizing begins. As one budtender puts it, “A contract is great, but it really takes them getting to know that contract and know what their rights are so that they can use it.”


Typically, workers who are the most adept at leveraging their contract have done deep organizing. This is a type of organizing that takes patience and relies on more than just meeting quotas (i.e. simply signing enough union cards to certify with a union). Deep organizing is about ensuring that workers fully understand that they are the union. What they get out of it depends on what they put in.


The Seed & Stone workers, for example, did not look to a UFCW 1518 staff representative to catalyze the change they desired. “I ended up hosting a meeting at my house last year where we discussed what we needed to change – what we wanted out of union representation,” says one of the worker organizers. “Then we had a union rep show up and give us the spiel about the process.” Early dialoguing and consensus-building were key to their success, and it’s this highly localized approach to activism that’s allowing the union to grow provincially.

If you are a budtender or work in a grow-op and are interested in joining a union, learn more at ufcw1518.com/cannabis or contact an organizer today.

UBC Students Unionize with UFCW 1518 to Reclaim Campus Grocery Store

VANCOUVER – After sparking a fast-paced organizing drive, workers at Grocery Checkout are preparing to negotiate their first collective agreement and resurrect the community-focused model that attracted them to the jobs in the first place.

On Dec. 4, the BC Labour Board confirmed that employees at the workplace, located in the Students Union Building, are now members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1518. Most of the staff are students, whose frustration with the business reached a tipping point when the new owners bulldozed its “by students, for students” design.

“Part of what we loved about Grocery Checkout was that it was committed to hiring students, who need the work and know the campus community,” says one of the workers. “We got to choose what merchandise was sold, how the business was run…we chose the music — it was a lot of fun. And we were all in it together. The new owners abandoned that vision.”

Grocery Checkout started hiring from outside the student body, even cutting students’ hours to accommodate new full-time employees who were not properly trained by the employer or even selected through a rigorous, standardized hiring process. Nepotism was running rampant, and the dedicated staff knew that they had to act—talking to the employer individually was not working, and the situation was dire.

“People need this money to survive,” says one Grocery Checkout employee, “students are getting screwed over.”

In addition to inflation, students also contend with crushing tuition fees, which the UBC Board of Governors just voted to raise. The new UFCW 1518 members at Grocery Checkout need better compensation, more in-line with the other on-campus private businesses that provide higher wages, extended health benefits, and even meal vouchers. The Grocery Checkout staff want to prioritize guaranteed hours, guaranteed discounts, and a ban on non-student hires moving forward. These asks were a long time coming; even before the new owners took over Grocery Checkout, their employer was not fulfilling their promises.

“A lot of us were hired under false pretences,” says one of the workers. “We were told we would have a certain number of hours every week. That didn’t happen. We were told that we’d get raises based on performance. That didn’t happen.”

With a union, the workers can infuse the store with its old grassroots spirit and finally hold Grocery Checkout accountable. Most importantly, they can face the employer together. Unionizing “is the only thing we can do to get power back into our own hands,” according to one worker. Another bonus, they add, is that a union will outlive their employment and continue “protecting students of the future.” The young workers say they hope that their action inspires more student-run organizing drives. “It’s about setting a precedent for the other private businesses on campus and saying ‘No you don’t have to sit around and take this.’”

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For more information, contact:

Celia Shea, UFCW 1518 Digital Organizer at 604-250-6483