Most cannabis stores in Victoria are now unionized

Published on April 12, 2024 by Pat Bulmer

Canna Cabana on Davie St. in Vancouver unionized recently. Photo: Ashley Hughes
Canna Cabana on Davie St. in Vancouver is one of the latest shops to go union.

Three quarters of the employees at private cannabis stores in Victoria are now unionized, according to a BC-based union.

UFCW local 1518 continues to organize budtenders across the province.

Two Trees Cannabis locations in Nanaimo and Canna Cabana on Davie St. in Vancouver are the latest shops to go union.

Trees is now “British Columbia’s first private wall-to-wall unionized cannabis chain,” the union local says in a news release. UFCW represents Trees workers at five locations in Victoria and Nanaimo.

“Staff were driven to organize as a show of solidarity with their colleagues—fighting back against the unique pressures associated with the cannabis industry, including low wages, minimal protections and limited job security,” the union release says.

“We are proud to welcome UFCW 1518’s newest members as they make history by organizing as the province’s first private wall-to-wall unionized cannabis chain.” says UFCW 1518 president Kim Novak. “These workers are setting a new standard for the cannabis industry, and we anticipate that their achievement will send shockwaves across the cannabis labour landscape, empowering workers across Canada to demand fairness and respect in their own workplaces.”

In December, Trees, which also operates stores in Ontario, filed for creditor protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act. That gives the company time to find a buyer.

Last month, workers at Canna Cabana were certified as union members. Among the motivating factors for joining the union were concerns about stagnant wages, lack of workplace protections and the desire to secure a fair contract that respects the unique role they play in BC’s retail sector, the union says.

“I’m truly hoping that we can get our foot in the door and fight for proper rights for the workplace. Above all else, I miss having a proper work schedule, and being able to actually afford to live. Their retaliation to us wanting more rights truly exposed the true colours of this company,” an unnamed Canna Cabana employee says in a union news release.

The BC Budtenders Union, a division of UFCW 1518, formed in 2020. The union now represents about 129 workers at nine businesses in 17 locations. All but one are retail outlets. The other is Potanicals Green Growers, a grow-op based in the Okanagan community of Peachland.