Budtender Fired for Unionizing Gets Job Back — UFCW 1518

VICTORIA, British Columbia, Nov. 26, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — A Budtender in Victoria will be going back to work on Friday after he was fired three weeks ago.

Niko Kruzel works as a Budtender at Burnside Buds, a cannabis dispensary located in Victoria, B.C. After months of dealing with issues regarding scheduling, inconsistent and low pay, and lack of health benefits, Kruzel and fellow Budtenders decided to contact a union organizer for the BC Budtender Union, a cannabis-focused division of UFCW 1518.

Kruzel was hired in May 2021 and had never been written up prior to unionizing. Three days after the employees voted to unionize, the store owner fired Kruzel through text message for ‘lack of trust’ and ‘poor work ethic.’ 

“I was surprised and shocked to get that late-night text,” said Kruzel. “It felt like a knee-jerk reaction from the employer, and in my opinion, it showed they didn’t know a lot about running a business.”

In the days following, the owner also removed snacks from the staff room, taking away things like juice boxes and chips that were originally for employees, as well as reducing the employee discount.

The union filed a complaint with the Labour Relations Board, stating that the employer fired Kruzel unlawfully and took away the staff snacks in retaliation against the workers for unionizing.

“This is all too common in the retail industry, and frankly, it’s childish,” says Eric Nordal, an organizer with the BC Budtender Union. “More often than not, we see employers try everything they can to prevent workers from joining a union by coercing, intimidating, taking away benefits, or straight up lying to them. Luckily, here in B.C., this type of behaviour is illegal, and we do have avenues to fight back.”

After the complaint was brought forward to the Labour Board, the employer agreed to reinstate Kruzel, refill the snacks that were taken away, and reinstate a 20% employee discount. Kruzel will be heading back into work this Friday.

“I’m excited to be back on the team that banded together to unionize and that looks out for each other when the employer doesn’t,” said Kruzel. “I’m looking forward to future negotiations and to serving people, as I’ve always done.”

Budtenders at Burnside Buds are looking forward to bargaining their first contract and will be fighting for consistent schedules, a living wage, health benefits, and more.

Workers at non-unionized cannabis stores can learn more about the benefits of joining a union at ufcw1518.com/cannabis.

UFCW Local 1518 represents more than 26,000 members working in the community health, hospitality, retail, grocery, industrial, and professional sectors across British Columbia.

Eva Prkachin
Press Secretary, UFCW 1518
604.612.1464 | [email protected]

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