About 20 workers form Ontario’s first marijuana industry union

Nearly two dozen Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) employees agreed to unionize under the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) banner, making them the first union members in Ontario’s fast-growing marijuana industry.

The unionized workers are part of the OCSs call center, which provides customer support for the province’s government-run online cannabis store.

UFCW National Representative Kevin Shimmin told Marijuana Business Daily that job security, more working hours and better scheduling drove support for unionization.

Union dues will cost roughly 40 Canadian dollars ($30) a month after the first agreement is ratified, he said.

UFCW Canada, which already represents cannabis retail workers at several Société Québécoise du Cannabis locations, sees room for more union representation in the cannabis industry.

“We’ve heard from workers in the production end of things on various companies,” Shimmin said. “We definitely see a need (for) a lot of the same issues that people unionize for: job security, just-cause protection and getting regular pay increases.”

The union is challenging Ontario’s decades-old exclusion of agricultural workers – including those in the cannabis industry – from the Labour Relations Act.

Because of the exclusion, agricultural workers do not have a way to unionize, according to UFCW Canada.

“If we have to go to the Supreme Court, we’ll go there,” Shimmin said.

“In Ontario, they don’t have a straight path to unionization,” he added. “By labeling them agricultural workers, they’re only covered by the Agricultural Employees Protection Act.”

UFCW said it can help put public pressure on companies to sit down and negotiate a collective agreement, even if the government won’t enforce it.

The OCS call center is operated by Calgary-based Line One Contact Centres.

UFCW represents roughly 250,000 people in Canada.

Matt Lamers can be reached at [email protected]

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