More Original Farm Budtenders Join UFCW 1518 and Win Common Employer Application

A big victory for the workers who had to smoke out boss’s anti-union campaign

VICTORIA, British Columbia, Feb. 03, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The BC Bud Union, a division of UFCW 1518, has grown its power significantly after 14 cannabis workers at the Original Farm Hillside dispensary joined the union last Friday, following their coworkers’ lead. Now staff at the downtown Victoria shop and Hillside will bargain their first collective agreement together.

“This is a big win for our members,” says Patrick Johnson, UFCW 1518’s Secretary-Treasurer, “especially because the Hillside staff had to defeat an anti-union campaign by Original Farm to get here. Their decision to vote union was even more powerful and necessary.”

The good news comes after the BC Labour Relations Board approved the BC Bud Union’s common employer application for the Hillside staff, which allows them to join forces with members employed at Original Farm’s downtown location, who unionized in December 2021. More voices will mean more power for these cannabis connoisseurs to create the change they need. For too long, employees 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,” says one worker, who is committed to rebuilding the sinking foundation on a culture of care. 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 match rising rent costs
  • 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

It’s not just cannabis workers who stand to gain a better life from the members’ efforts either. One thing is clear at both Original Farm locations; cannabis workers care about their community — a lot.

“There’s so much emotional work that goes into what we do,” says one Hillside worker. “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.

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 per cent of cannabis retailers in Victoria.

Like the workers at all these shops, Original Farm staff have been breathing life into the cannabis industry throughout the pandemic. They are the experts on their work, and they should have a real say over their working conditions, because when they do, the whole community benefits.

Contact Information
Celia Shea
Digital Organizer, UFCW 1518