Black History in Canada: Resources for Self-Education

Breaking Barriers: Black Activism and the Labour Movement

February marks Black History Month in Canada. This month serves as an opportunity to reflect on the immeasurable contributions made by Black Canadians, the enduring struggles they face, and the significant distance remaining towards true equality.

Few places are the contributions of Black Canadians more prevalent than in the labour movement. The history of Black Canadians in the labour movement dates to the early 20th century when individuals from the African diaspora sought better working conditions, fair wages, and an end to racial discrimination practices. Despite facing systemic racism and segregation, Black workers played a pivotal role across Canadian industry and in the fight for workers’ rights – establishing the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, one of Canada’s earliest labour unions, and the first to be organized by Black activists.

Though advocating not only for Black worker rights but for all workers, these activists endured persistent discrimination. The mid-20th century saw the rise of the civil rights movement. Inspired by the successes of the American Civil Rights movement, Black Canadians began demanding equal opportunities and rights, giving rise to iconic figures in Canadian history.

Viola DesmondViola Desmond, a businesswoman and civil rights activist, has since become a symbol of the  fight for equality in Canada. When she challenged racial discrimination by refusing to leave the segregated Whites-only section of the Roseland Theatre in Nova Scotia, her case highlighted racism in the justice system, and in 1954, segregation officially ended in Nova Scotia as a result of the mobilization of activists like Viola Desmond

Bromley ArmstrongBromley Armstrong, a Jamaican-born activist, emigrated to Canada during a period marked by racism and discrimination. Joining the United Automobile Workers (UAW), he soon became a leader in the Canadian trade union movement, serving as a shop steward and fighting to improve conditions for industrial workers. 

His work in advancing workers’ rights was intertwined with his fight for equality. Founding or co-founding organizations like the Congress of Racial Equality, Urban Alliance on Race Relations, and the Canadian Ethnocultural Council, he made immeasurable contributions to Canadian society. From his role in the Dresden Story to the Toronto Rent-Ins, his efforts were focused on dismantling the racial barriers in employment and housing, making significant strides in the fight for equality.

Stanley G. Grizzle

Stanley G. Grizzle – a railway worker, soldier, civil servant, and citizenship judge – was a staunch advocate for the rights of Black Canadians. 

A key figure in establishing the Young Men’s Negro Association of Toronto and a member of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, Grizzle advocated for better working conditions not just for Black Porters but for all Canadian Pacific Railway workers. 

His advocacy extended to challenging restrictive labour laws, and he played a pivotal role in reforming Canada’s immigration practices, which at the time discriminated against non-White British Commonwealth applicants.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

While progress has been made, many of the same challenges still persist for Black Canadians. Racial wage gaps, underrepresentation in leadership positions, and discrimination stand as barriers that have yet to be overcome. 

As we celebrate Black History Month, it is crucial to recognize and appreciate the enduring legacy of Black Canadians in the labour movement and their continued fight for equality. 

Their contributions have not only shaped the landscape of workers’ rights but have also contributed towards building a more just and equitable Canada. By acknowledging this past and the continued fight for equality, we honour the resilience and determination of Black Canadians who continue to leave their mark on Canada’s history.

We have curated a selection of resources spanning literature, film & television, and the internet that you can use to learn more about Black History in Canada. We encourage you to invest time in learning, reflecting, and taking meaningful steps toward building a more inclusive Canada.

LITERATURE

They Call Me George- The Untold Story of The Black Train Porters_

They Call Me George: The Untold Story of Black Train Porters and the Birth of Modern Canada 

By Cecil Foster

A historical work of non-fiction that chronicles the little-known stories of black railway porters – the so-called “Pullmen” of the Canadian rail lines. 

The actions and spirit of these men helped define Canada as a nation in surprising ways; effecting race relations, human rights, North American multiculturalism, community building, the shape and structure of unions, and the nature of travel and business across the US and Canada.

View on Google Books.

The Underground Railroad Records: Narrating the Hardships, Hairbreadth Escapes, and Death Struggles of Slaves in Their Efforts for Freedom by William Still

The Underground Railroad Records  

By William Still

As a conductor for the Underground Railroad—the covert resistance network created to aid and protect slaves seeking freedom—William Still helped as many as eight hundred people escape enslavement. He also meticulously collected the letters, biographical sketches, arrival memos, and ransom notes of the escapees. The Underground Railroad Records is an archive of primary documents that trace the narrative arc of the greatest, most successful campaign of civil disobedience in American history.

View on Google Books.

In the Black: My Life  

By William Still

In the Black traces B. Denham Jolly’s personal and professional struggle for a place in a country where Black Canadians have faced systematic discrimination. He arrived from Jamaica to attend university in the mid-1950s and worked as a high school teacher before going into the nursing and retirement-home business. Though he was ultimately successful in his business ventures, Jolly faced both overt and covert discrimination, which led him into social activism. The need for a stronger voice for the Black community fuelled Jolly’s 12-year battle to get a licence for a Black-owned radio station in Toronto. 

View on Google Books.

The Hanging of Angelique  

By Afua Cooper

Writer, historian and poet Afua Cooper tells the astonishing story of Marie-Joseph Angélique, a slave woman convicted of starting a fire that destroyed a large part of Montréal in April 1734 and condemned to die a brutal death. In a powerful retelling of Angélique’s story―now supported by archival illustrations―Cooper builds on 15 years of research to shed new light on a rebellious Portuguese-born black woman who refused to accept her indentured servitude. At the same time, Cooper completely demolishes the myth of a benign, slave-free Canada, revealing a damning 200- year-old record of legally and culturally endorsed slavery.

View on Google Books.

Viola Desmond Won't Be Budged

Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged!  

By Jody Nyasha Warner & Richard Rudnicki

Vividly illustrated children’s book about the story of Viola Desmond, a Black businesswoman who fought racial discrimination. In 1946, Desmond refused to give up her main-floor seat in a New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, segregated movie theatre and move to the balcony where Black people were supposed to sit. She was arrested and jailed, but her actions encouraged and inspired Canada’s Black community. 

The book’s oral-style text is a sensitive way to introduce young learners to the history of racial segregation in Canada.

View on CMHR’s Website.

Film & TElevision

NFB Canada

Black Communities in Canada: A Rich History

National Film Board of Canada

The National Film Board of Canada has created this playlist with the intention of providing a glimpse of the multi-layered lives of Canada’s diverse Black communities. The incredible stories of strength, courage, and perseverance in the face of adversity found in these films are rarely found in mainstream history books, making them an important educational resource.

View on NFB Canada’s Website.

The Skin We’re In: Desmond Cole

CBC Gem

Watch on CBC Gem.

Home Feeling Cover

Home Feeling: Struggle for a Community

By Jennifer Hodge and Roger McTair

Watch on NFB Canada’s website.

Journey to Justice Cover

Journey to Justice

By Roger McTair

Watch on NFB Canada’s website.

dIGITAL RESOURCES

Learn

UFCW Canada is offering members an “On the go” Black History Month course.
Make your free WebCampus account below.

Learn

Learn about the struggle of Black railway porters on the Canadian Pacific Railway and their historic fight for labour rights.

Learn

Read about the history of Black Pioneers in British Columbia, who helped shape communities throughout the province.

Learn

ULearn more about Black History in Canada by reading the many articles, biographies, and videos compiled by the Canadian Encyclopedia.

Take Action

Join community organizations and support the work of anti-racism activists at Black Lives Matter.

Take Action

Support the Hogan's Alley Society, an organization supporting the social, political, economic, cultural well being of people of African descent.

FreshCo and Chalo Workers Unite at Bargaining Kick-off Conference

Image of conference attendees with the FreshCo/Chalo Bargaining Kickoff Conference logo overlaid.

FreshCo and Chalo Workers Unite at Bargaining Kick-off Conference

Preparation for the upcoming FreshCo and Chalo bargaining negotiations are officially underway, with workers from across British Columbia gathering at UFCW 1518 Headquarters this past week for the inaugural FreshCo + Chalo Bargaining Kick-off Conference. Standing as a united front, these workers are ready to mobilize their colleagues and secure a fresh agreement—one that prioritizes workers’ rights and respects the essential roles they play in FreshCo and Chalo’s stores across the province.

The two-day conference was opened by Chief Rhonda Larrabee of the Qayqayt Nationwho spoke on the Nation’s ongoing pursuit of land rights in their ancestral territories, and highlighted the importance that guests on these territories in their struggle, and our shared pursuit of respect and fairness.

The conference included informative workshops, panels featuring union activists, presentations by industry experts, and interactive sessions where FreshCo and Chalo members collaboratively outlined key priorities and goals for the upcoming negotiations. Union leaders also shared insights into effective negotiation techniques, highlighting the impact of collective action and member involvement.

Members engaged in an interactive Bargaining Workshop hosted by UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak, and Secretary-Treasurer Patrick Johnson focused on understanding their rights, strengthening communication skills, and building a united front to address common challenges faced by workers in FreshCo and Chalo stores. The educational sessions aimed to empower members with the knowledge and tools necessary to advocate for fair wages, improved working conditions, and enhanced benefits.

Panel featuring Jaime Emerson, Angie Crosato, Erica Jones, Dean Patriquin, and moderated by UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak.

In addition to workshops and strategy sessions, the conference presented a panel of UFCW 1518 Executive Board Members Jaime Emerson, Angie Corsato, Erica Jones, and UFCW 247 Director of Training, Dean Patriquin. These seasoned advocates shared their experiences in securing positive outcomes for workers through strategic bargaining and community engagement. Their stories served as a source of inspiration, motivating FreshCo and Chalo members to stand strong in their commitment to achieving a groundbreaking agreement that prioritizes the well-being of the workforce.

Canadian Labour Congress Senior Economist, Troy Cochrane also took the stage, providing valuable insights into the current landscape of the grocery industry, workers’ roles in it, and the importance they play. This knowledge equipped FreshCo and Chalo members with a comprehensive understanding of the broader context in which their negotiations would take place, empowering them to make informed decisions that would benefit both workers and the industry as a whole.

As FreshCo and Chalo members return to their respective units, they are more prepared to enter bargaining united in their pursuit of building fair and equitable workplaces.  This momentum sets the stage for a historic push towards a fair and respectful deal, recognizing and valuing the indispensable contributions of workers.  

Member Spotlight: Activist and Actor Alyssa Scott

Photo of Alyssa Scott, interview. Text reads Line 1: "Alyssa Scott" Line 2: UFCW 1518 Member Line 3: Vancouver, BC

Alyssa Scott is an up-and-coming actress and UFCW 1518 member who is originally from Terrace, BC, but currently calls Vancouver, BC, home. A Gitxsan wolf from the Niist house of the Gitsegukla Band, Alyssa’s roots also extend to the Kispiox Band through her mother. Her journey has been marked by her passionate pursuit of the arts, with a drive to reconnect with her heritage.

Embarking on her debut film role, Alyssa embodies the captivating character of Princess Delta Dawn in an upcoming documentary chronicling the life of the legendary Indigenous BC wrestler.

Can you tell us about your journey and how it led to acting?

My upbringing involved a lot of moving around which exposed me to different places, people, and experiences. This meant that from a young age, making new connections became second nature to me. 

Eventually I settled in Terrace, BC, where I started exploring various interests, one of which was acting. Joining a drama class there, I quickly realized it was something that I loved. I was surrounded by people who were engaged, passionate, and excited about the same thing as me – they built a safe space which allowed me to explore my passion. My first real play was in middle school – I saw my family show up to support me, and in that moment, I decided ‘ok, this was what I want to do with my life’.

While you’ve been pursuing acting, you have also been reconnecting to your Indigenous heritage. 

Can you share how you started down that path?

I didn’t really grow up at home – constantly being on the move meant I didn’t have the opportunity to connect to my Indigenous culture as others had. As I’ve started learning more about my heritage, about the struggles my family went through, generational trauma which extends all the way from my grandparents to myself, I have become more passionate about making change for my community. There are many barriers Indigenous youth my age face which makes them feel like there’s a lack of opportunity.

Alyssa Scott wearing a graduation gown. Her sisters are standing on either side of her.

My sisters are also such an integral part of my life. I am really driven to care for and support them, so that has played a big role. When they moved in with my grandmother, I started taking a more active role in helping support them. That was when I started to see the discrepancies between the education Indigenous youth had access to, versus the education others were receiving. Seeing their experience and the shortcomings of the system when it comes to Indigenous youth was what drove me to get more involved.

You also recently took on your first role in front of the camera with a documentary about legendary Indigenous BC wrestler Princess Delta Dawn. 

Can you share your experience and how it helped you reconnect with your roots?

The Princess Delta Dawn documentary was one of the most amazing experiences of my life thus far. Working on the project was intense, especially since I had no prior wrestling background, unlike most of the others on set. I was so fortunate to have a supportive crew, and my director, Asia Youngman, who was not only encouraging but was also able to help me strike a balance between creativity, while still staying true to Dawn’s story.

Dawn is an inspirational figure who made waves for Indigenous women like me, so that made my first film experience even more meaningful. The highlight for me was when I was honored with the opportunity to wear her grandfather’s headdress, an artifact which is so important to Dawn’s family and community, and a symbol reserved only for Chiefs in my own culture. I feel so privileged that she trusted me to help share her memories and will treasure it for the rest of my life.

What drove you to join and get involved with UFCW 1518?

I was very fortunate to meet (UFCW 1518 Executive Board member and Shop Steward) Chris Holowka and be exposed firsthand to all the advocacy she is engaged in, and ways she is vouching for Indigenous peoples. Chris was so open to share her story, and so accepting of mine – that when she suggested I get more involved with the Union, I knew I wanted to participate. She is so driven to involve more young people with Union, particularly those who don’t often have the opportunity.

What advice do you have for those who want to get more involved with their Union?

It just goes back to speaking your mind – feeling comfortable to share your thoughts and ideas, while also speaking out about the change you want to see. I think that really applies to every aspect of life. You never know who’s listening, and whether that person can play a pivotal role in your journey, so it’s important to be outspoken and engaged. The communities I grew up in were so involved, impactful, and supportive of new ideas and initiatives that participating in the Union was just a natural fit for me.

With so many achievements already under your belt, what’s next for you?

My passion lays in my career, in acting, and continuing to be exposed to more of my own, and other cultures, moving forward. I really want to start building my own foundations in a literal sense, settling down into my own place, etc., but also laying down a solid foundation for my sisters so that they have an easier path as they grow up.

Alyssa Scott speaking with crew members on set.

A few years ago, I made this list of goals for the next 10 years of my life starting from 20 years old, and I’m very fortunate to have already checked off many of them. I’ve finished three years of college, written and directed my own short films, and am pursuing my dream career. I also want to keep reconnecting with my heritage and incorporating my culture into every aspect of my life – I’m passionate about starting my own businesses in skincare, makeup, etc., and incorporating my culture into it, whether it be involving the traditional artists in my family within the design process, making it accessible to my community, or many other ways.

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. 

UFCW 1518 Files Unfair Labour Practice Against Sephora

Today, UFCW 1518 filed an Unfair Labour Practice (ULP) with the BC Labour Relations Board against Sephora in Kamloops, the first unionized store in Canada.

UFCW 1518 has been negotiating with Sephora for over a year to make significant wage improvements not only for union members but all Sephora workers in BC. The union has received reports that Sephora workers were feeling threatened by management and were at risk of losing wages and benefits.

The Kamloops store became the first unionized Sephora in Canada in the summer of 2022 when workers organized to seek greater respect, equity and wage fairness in their workplace. After forming their union, the workers successfully fought for compensation for time spent waiting for bag checks, which sometimes forced workers to wait up to 30 minutes without pay after their shifts. The paid bag check time became company policy at all Sephora stores in Canada following the union’s advocacy.

“We are extremely disappointed to hear from our members that Sephora is using these tactics,” said UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak. “We expect better from this company. That means Sephora coming to the bargaining table with an offer we can bring back to our members that includes significant wage increases, better flexibility and respect for the work they do. We are ready and willing to work with Sephora–but we need to see respect for our members in the process.”  

The union is fighting for significant wage increases, assurance of health benefits, retention of store bonuses, and more at the bargaining table. Once negotiations are complete, all workers at the Kamloops Sephora store will have the opportunity to vote on the tentative contract. From there, the Sephora Kamloops union can fight for further wage and workplace improvements in their next collective agreement.

If you are a Sephora worker and would like to know more about the benefits of joining a union, you can reach out at join@ufcw1518.com or go to ufcw1518.com/join.

Preparing for a Strike Vote at Safeway and FreshCo Pharmacy

For over eight months, UFCW 1518 has been in bargaining with Sobeys—the corporation that owns Safeway. In over 36 days of bargaining, Sobeys has barely moved on their wage offer, which is less than 1% in some years of the proposed contract.

Escalation may be necessary to fight for a fair deal. What are the next steps in preparing for a strike vote at Sobeys/Safeway, and what does this mean for members? Click on the items below to learn more.

A strike authorization vote authorizes the union to have the option to serve strike notice if we are unable to reach an agreement. It is also a strong show of solidarity for the bargaining committee, helping them to return to the bargaining table with a strong mandate from members. The bargaining committee can then push Sobeys to make a better wage offer.

No, a strike authorization vote is a step in escalation and does not mean we will automatically issue a strike notice. Ultimately, our committee is fighting for a fair deal for Safeway members. After the strike authorization vote, we will return to the bargaining table to show Sobeys we are serious about fighting for a fair deal—but our goal is to reach an agreement without having to serve strike notice.

Yes, UFCW 1518 members will receive picket pay in the event a strike, so long as they show up to their picket shifts:

  • $450 per week for 24 hours of picketing
  • $350 per week for 16 hours of picketing

While there is a required minimum number of hours to receive picket pay, members are encouraged, where reasonable, to contribute more hours on the picket line ­‑­ roughly the number of hours they would typically work when possible.

Alternative duties may be available for members who are unable to walk the picket line.

Our union will coordinate other ways for members who can’t formally strike to get involved and show their solidarity through other kinds of actions. 

If another union (such as UFCW 247 or the Bakers Union) serves strike notice in your store, UFCW 1518 members would not cross this picket line, and would receive the equivalent picket pay. We will keep you informed if this happens in your store.

We are forming a new Contract Support Team that can help coordinate members and keep them updated in the event we need to prepare to take job action

If you are interested in joining our Contract Support Team, click here.

Make sure you are receiving communications from your union and don’t hesitate to be in touch with your union rep to make sure you know the latest information.

Wear your Respect Retail Workers pin at work

No, for international students, there will be no impact. If there is a dispute, you are eligible to work up to 20 hours per week but not required to do so. You would be entitled to up to 20 hours of picket pay a week.

If you hold a work permit and there is a dispute, there is no impact on your work permit if you are on strike or locked out. You would also be entitled to receive picket pay. Depending on the nature of your work permit, you may be able to work for a different employer during any labour dispute.

The bargaining committee has unanimously agreed that NOW is the time to take a strike authorization vote. They are calling for members to vote before the committee returns to the bargaining table on September 20 and show Sobeys that they are united in fighting for a fair contract.

The strike authorization vote will be held online from Tuesday, September 12 at 9 am PDT to Thursday, September 14 at 3 pm PDT.

You will receive your voting credentials to your email address on Tuesday, September 12 at 9 am PDT.

Anyone who does not receive their voting credentials on September 12 can call the union office at 1-800-661-3708 during our extended office hours to request them, after verifying their identity.

Anyone requiring in-person assistance to vote can come to the UFCW 1518 office at 350 Columbia St. in New Westminster. The office will be open from 8:30 am to 7 pm PDT on Tuesday, September 12 and Wednesday, September 13. Regular office hours resume on Thursday, September 14—you can come vote at the office until 3 pm PDT.

All UFCW 1518 members who work at Safeway stores and FreshCo Pharmacies in Zone 1 (Lower Mainland to Whistler) will have the right to vote. Voting YES means that you support your bargaining committee’s recommendation to authorize a strike and demand a better contract than what Sobeys is offering.

Due to existing language in your collective agreement, members outside of Zone 1, won’t be able to participate in the current strike authorization vote. However, you will have many opportunities to support fellow union members, who will rely on your solidarity to fight for the best possible deal for all Safeway and FreshCo Pharmacy workers. We will share more details in the coming weeks. 

A strike is when union members collectively withdraw their labour. Rather than going to work, union members will form a picket line outside of their workplace and refuse to return to their jobs until the employer puts forward a fair contract offer.

As workers, our labour is our power. An effective strike shows our power to the employer and puts pressure on them to negotiate fairly and meet our demands.

We don’t know exactly how long a dispute could last—no one does. But we are several steps away from this.

Ultimately, bargaining ends with an agreement—one that both sides can ratify (that means the Employer and the Union members). And if that happens before a dispute… great! If not, a dispute may be necessary, but it will ultimately end when both sides reach a tentative agreement that ratifies.

If our strike successfully shows the employer that we will not back down until we get what we deserve, the hope is that the strike will end with a better contract that addresses members’ priorities.

We will provide members with all of the information they need to make an informed decision well ahead of job action.

Union representatives will make frequent store visits to keep members updated and answer your questions, and as always we will continue to keep members updated via emails, telephone town halls, social media, texts, and the Sobeys Bargaining Page.

Ensure that your contact info with us is up-to-date. You can update your info with union reps or members of the bargaining committee when you see them in-store, or you can send your full name, workplace name and number, Employee ID, email address, and cell phone number to reception@ufcw1518.com

No! Your vote is confidential! So unless you share how you voted, no one will know.

A strike authorization vote authorizes the union to have the option to serve strike notice if we are unable to reach an agreement. It is also a strong show of solidarity for the bargaining committee, helping them to return to the bargaining table with a strong mandate from members. The bargaining committee can then push Sobeys to make a better wage offer.

No, a strike authorization vote is a step in escalation and does not mean we will automatically issue a strike notice. Ultimately, our committee is fighting for a fair deal for Safeway members. After the strike authorization vote, we will return to the bargaining table to show Sobeys we are serious about fighting for a fair deal—but our goal is to reach an agreement without having to serve strike notice.

The bargaining committee has unanimously agreed that NOW is the time to take a strike authorization vote. They are calling for members to vote before the committee returns to the bargaining table on September 20 and show Sobeys that they are united in fighting for a fair contract.

The strike authorization vote will be held online from Tuesday, September 12 at 9 am PDT to Thursday, September 14 at 3 pm PDT.

You will receive your voting credentials to your email address on Tuesday, September 12 at 9 am PDT.

Anyone who does not receive their voting credentials on September 12 can call the union office at 1-800-661-3708 during our extended office hours to request them, after verifying their identity.

Anyone requiring in-person assistance to vote can come to the UFCW 1518 office at 350 Columbia St. in New Westminster. The office will be open from 8:30 am to 7 pm PDT on Tuesday, September 12 and Wednesday, September 13. Regular office hours resume on Thursday, September 14—you can come vote at the office until 3 pm PDT.

All UFCW 1518 members who work at Safeway stores and FreshCo Pharmacies in Zone 1 (Lower Mainland to Whistler) will have the right to vote. Voting YES means that you support your bargaining committee’s recommendation to authorize a strike and demand a better contract than what Sobeys is offering.

Members not in Zone 1 will have many opportunities to support fellow union members, who will rely on your solidarity to fight for the best possible deal for all Safeway and FreshCo Pharmacy workers.

A strike is when union members collectively withdraw their labour. Rather than going to work, union members will form a picket line outside of their workplace and refuse to return to their jobs until the employer puts forward a fair contract offer.

As workers, our labour is our power. An effective strike shows our power to the employer and puts pressure on them to negotiate fairly and meet our demands.

Yes, UFCW 1518 members will receive picket pay in the event a strike, so long as they show up to their picket shifts:

  • $450 per week for 24 hours of picketing
  • $350 per week for 16 hours of picketing

Alternative duties may be available for members who are unable to walk the picket line.

We don’t know exactly how long a dispute could last—no one does. But we are several steps away from this.

Ultimately, bargaining ends with an agreement—one that both sides can ratify (that means the Employer and the Union members). And if that happens before a dispute… great! If not, a dispute may be necessary, but it will ultimately end when both sides reach a tentative agreement that ratifies.

If our strike successfully shows the employer that we will not back down until we get what we deserve, the hope is that the strike will end with a better contract that addresses members’ priorities.

Our union will coordinate other ways for members who can’t formally strike to get involved and show their solidarity through other kinds of actions. 

If another union (such as UFCW 247 or the Bakers Union) serves strike notice in your store, UFCW 1518 members would not cross this picket line, and would receive the equivalent picket pay. We will keep you informed if this happens in your store.

Union representatives will make frequent store visits to keep members updated and answer your questions, and as always we will continue to keep members updated via emails, telephone town halls, social media, texts, and the Sobeys Bargaining Page.

Ensure that your contact info with us is up-to-date. You can update your info with union reps or members of the bargaining committee when you see them in-store, or you can send your full name, workplace name and number, Employee ID, email address, and cell phone number to reception@ufcw1518.com

We are forming a new Contract Support Team that can help coordinate members and keep them updated in the event we need to prepare to take job action

If you are interested in joining our Contract Support Team, click here.

Make sure you are receiving communications from your union and don’t hesitate to be in touch with your union rep to make sure you know the latest information.

– Wear your Respect Retail Workers pin at work

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.”