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Hundreds of Quebec Cannabis Workers Call General Strike Over Working Conditions

Keegan Williams

By Keegan Williams

May 27, 2022

A 300-member Quebec union

, impacting approximately two dozen cannabis stores in the province. 

The strike follows the suspension of the president of the union, the vice president and 75 employees by the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC), represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, over dress-code violations. 

Employees allegedly wore dresses and Bermuda shorts rather than the black pants and sweater required, according to the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUDE) representing the workers.

The workers began striking Friday night. While the union said the strike includes 300 workers, the SQDC estimated the number was closer to 250 employees. It’s said to be one of the largest labor actions in the emerging U.S. and

cannabis industries.

An SQDC spokesperson

MJBizDaily it is hoping to keep the affected cannabis stores open in order to continue serving customers and “full out mandate of migrating consumers” to the country’s legal adult-use cannabis market. Until the issue is resolved, affected stores will operate under limited hours. All other 67 stores will remain open under their normal schedules, according to the SQDC.

The SQDC spokesperson also said it fully recognizes the rights of employees to “assert pressure tactics” while they continue negotiating. Workers are demanding proportional compensation to their colleagues at the province’s Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ), which is a similar governmental body focusing on liquor store operations.

CUPE elaborated in a statement:

“These SQDC workers barely earn CA$17 per hour upon hiring and the majority have no full-time position or job security, which puts them in an untenable precarious position,” the union said, adding that 91% of employees voted favorably in February to launch pressure tactics, which include an indefinite general strike under the proper circumstances. 

At the time, Director of CUPE Quebec Mark Ranger said the unions want salaries that compare to those of government employees, like those of the SAW, which

.

While the SQDC also operates a monopoly over the province’s e-commerce cannabis service, the strike will not affect it.

Quebec Strike Has Been in the Making

It’s been an ongoing conversation;

from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., responding to the wages offered by SQDC during collective agreement negotiations. 

“The members are angry!” David Clément, president of CUPE 5454, said at the time. We have been trying for months to negotiate decent working conditions worthy of a crown corporation, but the SQDC chose instead to table a wage offer that would keep us in poverty. Our patience has reached its limits and if our employer does not come to their senses, the next few weeks will be hectic!”

It looks as though Clément’s prediction was correct. Following the February vote in favor of initiating pressure tactics, he echoed the sentiments the union and striking workers share today.

“All we’re asking for are decent working conditions,” Clément said. “At the present time, we don’t feel we’re getting any respect from our employer, which is reflected in the mandates given to the employer’s bargaining committee. In short, we won’t be a source of cheap labour for Crown corporations.”

Looking toward the U.S. market,

released by the Economic Policy Institute looked at the effects of unionizing within the cannabis industry and found unionization was key in looking at new job creation; safer working conditions; better pay and better benefits, including healthcare, paid leave and fair scheduling.

The report also notes that Labor Peace Agreements between companies and workers in the cannabis industry work to better protect the right of cannabis laborers to unionize and also support better alignment between companies and workers. This led to increased job quality and pay standards for all workers, especially people of color, the report notes.

Keegan Williams

About The Author

Keegan Williams

HIGH THERE MISSION

WE’RE A CREATIVE COMMUNITY — EXPLORING THE SCIENCE, CRAFT, AND CULTURE OF CANNABIS.
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