More than 100 budtenders in Manitoba accept their first collective agreement

| David Brown

Employees at a chain of retail stores in Manitoba have signed a collective agreement with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), highlighting concerns with safety rates of pay and what they say are unfair penalties. 

The new 30-month agreement was signed on June 14 and covers employees at ten The Joint locations in the province. The Joint also has stores in Saskatchewan and Alberta. 

The Union first received a province-wide certificate in June 2022 after workers contacted UFCW Local 832 about joining the union.

“I’m proud of our new members who stood up for their rights to join UFCW and worked together on not only organizing their workplace but also working with us to obtain the first collective agreement for Cannabis retail workers in the province of Manitoba”, stated UFCW Local 832 President, Jeff Traeger.

The union says the new 30-month collective agreement addresses numerous concerns that were raised during the organizing drive, such as safety concerns, rates of pay, and “unjust disciplines”.

The union held a meeting for members of The Joint on June 13.

“This is a fairly new industry. Since these workers have joined us, we have heard from numerous other Cannabis retail workers about joining our union. Many of them have been waiting to see what a collective agreement would provide them. We will continue to work on advocating for all Cannabis workers in Manitoba to ensure this industry has the proper protections these workers deserve.”

UFCW Local 832 represents over 19,000 Manitoban workers in food production, food distribution, warehousing, hospitality, security, personal care, assisted living, grocery retail and cannabis retail.

Ariel Glinter, head of business development and regulatory compliance for The Joint, says the company is supportive of their employees’ decision.

“As a company we believe that our employees are responsible for our success and as such have always supported our workforce and ensured our goals are aligned with theirs. We are optimistic in entering this relationship and look forward to working alongside the union.”

Note: This article has been edited to provide comment from The Joint.

Unions and cannabis in Canada

Budtenders and cannabis employees in other provinces have also been unionizing, or seeking to do so. A union representing BC cannabis retail employees has slowly been gathering members since it became the first union to represent budtenders in Canada in 2020.

In August 2022, the BC General Employees Union launched a strike that shut down the province’s cannabis and alcohol distribution system, leaving cannabis stores with no access to new deliveries for weeks.

The SQDC, which manages cannabis sales in Quebec, has been dealing with an ongoing strike, which continues in 22 of their 90 branches. Although these branches are still open, they are operating at reduced hours and face picket line pressures. 

In June, members of a different union, the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN), voted to accept an agreement with the SQDC for increased wages, hours, and better working conditions.

The provincial organization is still negotiating with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents 28 of its 90 branches. In September, the Superior Court of Quebec issued an injunction to limit union “pressure tactics” against SQDC.

In 2020, a court ruled a BC cannabis company had unfairly penalized workers for trying to unionize. In September 2020, the union began organizing and soon applied to be certified for 17 employees at a Peachland, BC operation. 

Then, on October 5, the company laid off nine employees at the same Peachland operation, citing “the Company’s financial circumstances.”  The union argued these employees were laid off for seeking to unionize. The court agreed.

In 2016, UFCW tried to organize workers at a MedReleaf facility in Ontario, but the Ontario Labour Relations Board ruled the workers did not have the right to unionize. The union has appealed that ruling.