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