The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW Canada) has notified an Ontario cannabis producer to sit down and bargain a contract for members the union represents at WeedMD in Mount Brydges, Ontario – the first-ever notice to bargain for cannabis production workers in Canada. Approximately 250 workers are employed at WeedMD’s cultivation facility.
In Ontario, cannabis production has been deemed as agricultural work by the Ontario Labour Relations Board. As a result, cannabis production workers in Ontario are excluded from the Labour Relations Act and therefore do not have a clear path to union membership. Instead, workers fall under the Agricultural Employees Protection Act (AEPA), under which no group of agricultural workers in Ontario has ever managed to organize for the purposes of collective bargaining since the Act’s inception in 2002. As such, the union maintains the AEPA itself also violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, by failing to protect the freedom of association rights of Ontario agriculture workers.
Workers at WeedMD contacted UFCW Canada after hearing about the union’s organizing of cannabis production and dispensary workers in Canada and the United States. Workers report that some of the most significant issues at WeedMD include hours, scheduling, unjust terminations, abuse of power, and unsafe working conditions. The union alleges the company has illegally terminated at least one worker for union activities. UFCW Canada is seeking just cause protection, fair and secure scheduling, wage increases, health and safety measures, and many other urgently needed improvements.
With more than 250,000 members across the country, UFCW Canada is the leading voice for cannabis and agricultural workers. UFCW has bargained union contracts covering thousands of cannabis workers in California, Oregon, Colorado, Washington, Minnesota, and New Mexico. Last year, the union successfully unionized and ratified a collective agreement covering call centre workers at the Ontario Cannabis Store.