Article by Rachel Browne, Vice News
In what’s believed to be a first in Canada, employees at a Toronto marijuana dispensary have started the process of forming a union, despite the fact that the business is illegal.
Forty workers at the Canna Clinic on Broadview Avenue are expected to have their bargaining unit certified by the end of the week, the Ontario Labour Board tells VICE News.
The staff’s move to unionize could inspire similar efforts amongst the dozens of other pot dispensaries across Ontario, something that one worker at Canna Clinic hopes will add legitimacy to the businesses as the province decides whether to allow the shops to exist once cannabis is legalized for recreational use.
“Once next year rolls around with legalization, no one really knows what’s going to happen with workers like us. So with the union, we feel like we actually have structure,” said one “budtender” at the Broadview shop who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Canna Clinic workers approached Unifor, Canada’s biggest private-sector union, as they were organizing their union a couple months ago. The fact that the clinic operates illegally, and was even raided by the Toronto cops last summer, has no bearing on Unifor’s stance towards it.
“Our job as a union is to represent employees at a workplace,” Katha Fortier, assistant to Unifor’s national president, told VICE News on Thursday. The group sees Canna Clinic simply as an employer who employs workers, and it does not question the legal status of either.
Fortier added that she won’t be surprised if more dispensaries follow suit by organizing their own unions. “It does oftentimes start a reaction,” she said.
Voy Stelmaszynski, a solicitor at the Ontario Labour Board, said the board would be issuing a decision Thursday or Friday certifying Canna Clinic’s bargaining unit. And, like Unifor, he said it doesn’t matter to them whether workers who want to unionize are doing illegal work or not.