The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Canada (UFCW Canada) has challenged Ontario government for the exclusion of workers in the cannabis industry from the Labour Relations Act. The union said that Ontario, Canada’s exclusion of cannabis workers from the right to unionize violates Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
UFCW Canada became the first union to organize cannabis workers in Canada, but the Ontario Labour Relations Board deemed cannabis workers as agricultural workers, which denies them the right to unionize. Unlike most provinces, agricultural workers in Ontario are excluded from the Labour Relations Act and are instead covered by the Agricultural Employees Protection Act (AEPA). The AEPA does not obligate employers to bargain collectively with employees and does not protect the right to strike.
Other provinces in Canada are also looking to unionize their cannabis workers as well. The UFCW Canada in Alberta has said it has been receiving calls from concerned employees in the cannabis industry about working conditions and employer treatment.
“We are actively pursuing organizing leads in the cannabis industry because it is growing,” Michael Hughes, spokesman for UFCW Local 401, which counts 32,000 members in Alberta, said. “There’s a lot of hiccups and issues with workers’ conditions and rights as they navigate a new industry.”
In October, California Governor Gavin Newsome signed a bill that made it easier for cannabis workers to unionize by requiring all cannabis stores to enter “labor peace agreements” as soon as they have 20 or more employees. A MedMen dispensary in San Jose, California unionized as early as last August.
With more than 250,000 members, UFCW Canada is the leading voice for cannabis and agricultural workers in Canada. The union also has collective agreements representing cannabis workers in California, Oregon, Colorado, Washington, Minnesota and New Mexico.