A budtender fired earlier this month for “lack of trust” and “poor work ethic” while helping organize a union work returned to Burnside Buds Pharmacy in Victoria, British Columbia on November 26th.
Niko Kruzel’s dismissal came when he and other Burnside Buds workers voted to join the BC Budtender Union, a cannabis-focused division of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union Local 1518, which represents more than 26,000 members, the serve in the community health care, hospitality, retail, food, industrial and commercial sectors across British Columbia.
The decision to unionize came after months of grappling with scheduling problems, inconsistent and low wages and a lack of health benefits, according to a press release from Local 1518. Kruzel was hired in May 2021 and, according to the press release, had never been contacted before the union was formed.
Three days after the pharmacy’s employees voted to form a union, the shopkeeper fired Kruzel via text message, citing trust and work ethic issues, Kruzel said in the press release.
“I was surprised and shocked when I got this late night text,” he said. “It felt like a knee-jerk reaction from the employer and in my opinion it showed that they didn’t know much about running a company.”
Kruzel is not the only case in which a pharmacy employee has been fired as part of a union.
Ben Telford, a former key holder at Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center in Portsmouth, RI, was born on the 23rd. Join UFCW Local 328.
The National Labor Relations Board has filed a lawsuit against Greenleaf for dismissing Telford and seeking an injunction to get the company back to work for Telford, said Sam Marvin, Local 328 Director of Organizing, versus Cannabis Business Times.
RELATED: Greenleaf Announces Employees Involved in Union Negotiation in Rhode Island; Workers’ strike follows
In Victoria, Kruzel helps sell products such as Pure Sunfarms Flower, Aurora Pre-Rolls, Redecan Vapes and Oils, Wana Edibles, and Solei Topicals, among other popular brands and items. He was unemployed for about three weeks before going back to work.
After his dismissal, the union filed a complaint with the British Columbia Labor Relations Board (LRB) finding that the employer had unlawfully terminated Kruzel’s employment and then removed snacks from the staff room in retaliation for union work, according to the local news release from 1518.
“It’s all too common in retail and, frankly, childish,” said Eric Nordal, an organizer of the BC Budtender Union, in the press release. “We often see employers doing everything in their power to prevent workers from joining a union by forcing them, intimidating them, robbing them of services or lying to them directly. Fortunately, this kind of behavior is illegal here in BC and we have a place to fight back. “
After the complaint was filed with LRB, the pharmacy’s employer agreed to reinstate Kruzel, replenish the staff’s snacks, and reintroduce a 20% employee discount, which the press release said was taken away after the employee’s union efforts.
Kruzel returned to work on Friday.
“I’m excited to be back on the team that have come together to unionize and take care of each other when the employer doesn’t,” he said. “I look forward to future negotiations and to serving people as I have always done.”