Budtender Fired For Unionizing Gets Job Back

A Budtender in Victoria will be going back to work on Friday after he was fired three weeks ago.

Niko Kruzel works as a Budtender at Burnside Buds, a cannabis dispensary located in Victoria, BC. After months of dealing with issues regarding scheduling, inconsistent and low pay, and lack of health benefits, Kruzel and fellow Budtenders decided to contact a union organizer for the BC Budtender Union, a cannabis-focused division of UFCW 1518.

Kruzel started working at Burnside Buds in May 2021. Prior to unionizing, he had never received a write-up or formal reprimand. Three days after the employees voted to unionize, the store owner fired Kruzel through text message. The employer cited ‘lack of trust’ and ‘poor work ethic’ as reasons for the firing.

I’m excited to be back on the team that banded together to unionize

“I was surprised and shocked to get that late-night text,” said Kruzel. “It felt like a knee-jerk reaction from the employer and showed they didn’t know a lot about running a business.”

In the following days, the owner removed snacks from the staff room and reduced the employee discount.

The union filed a complaint with the BC Labour Relations Board (LRB). The complaint stated that Burnside fired Kruzel unlawfully and took away the staff snacks to retaliate against the union supporters.

“Union busting is all too common in retail, and frankly, it’s childish,” says Eric Nordal, a BC Budtender Organizer. “Some employers try everything to prevent workers from joining a union, like coercing, intimidating, taking away benefits, or straight-up lying. Luckily, here in BC, this is illegal, and we do have avenues to fight back.”

Fired budtender headed back to work

After UFCW 1518 took the complaint to the LRB, Burnside agreed to reinstate Kruzel, refill the snacks, and reinstate a 20% employee discount. Kruzel will be heading back to work this Friday.

“I’m excited to be back on the team that banded together to unionize and that looks out for each other when the employer doesn’t,” said Kruzel. “I’m looking forward to future negotiations and to serving people, as I’ve always done.”

Burnside Budtenders will now begin bargaining their first contract where they will fight for a living wage, health benefits and more.

Workers at non-unionized cannabis stores can learn more about the benefits of joining a union at ufcw1518.com/cannabis.