Workers at Ontario Tokyo Smoke location vote to unionize

| Staff

Workers at the Tokyo Smoke cannabis dispensary in Stoney Creek have voted for union representation in an online vote conducted by the Ontario Labour Relations Board. 

Local 1006A says they are proud to welcome the 11 new members, who made the vote last week.

“UFCW 1006A is proud to be the number one choice for cannabis workers seeking a voice and fairness at work,” said President Wayne Hanley. “Our newest members at Tokyo Smoke have shown the tremendous power workers have to create positive change when they are united, committed to each other and making their workplace better.”

Workers say the key issues in joining the union were health and safety, staffing, benefits and having a voice and representation at work.

“This union is a win to ensure the cannabis space remains progressive, fair and just,” said Kathleen Quinn, a newly unionized member. “We want to provide dignity and equity for all.”

“Solidarity was the key to our members’ victory at Tokyo Smoke,” said Lesley Prince, Local 1006A Organizing Director. “Increasingly, cannabis workers are turning to UFCW Canada to ensure their voices are heard and their interests and rights are protected in the highly profitable cannabis sector.”

UFCW is the union for cannabis workers, representing cannabis retail stores and marijuana growing facilities in Canada and the US. Tokyo Smoke is the second cannabis retailer to have unionized in Canada. In 2020, 22 cannabis workers at Canna Cabana in Hamilton, Ontario joined the union as well, UFCW 175.

Last month, the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) ended its contract with the call centre employees of Line One Contact Centres, the first cannabis-related workforce to form a union in the province.

In October 2020, a BC court has ruled a cannabis company has violated the Labour Relations Code by laying off several employees who were seeking to unionize at a facility in Peachland, BC.

The court ordered that the laid off employees be reinstated to their employment and their layoffs rescinded. 

The company, Potantical Green Growers, is a wholly owned subsidiary of a publicly traded company, known as Benchmark Botanics Inc. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 1518 brought the case forward, arguing that Benchmark had violated several labour codes by laying off a handful of employees that were seeking to unionize.

Last year a union representing production workers at WeedMD, a Southwestern Ontario cannabis producer, filed a formal complaint against the company for allegedly firing a union organizer without cause.

In 2016, following attempts to unionize, the Ontario labor board ruled that MedReleaf was an agricultural company, and provincial law says agricultural workers cannot be unionized. Agricultural workers in Ontario are excluded from the Labour Relations Act and are instead covered by the Agricultural Employees Protection Act (AEPA).