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Cascadia Liquor Store workers gathered at the SEIU L2 office in Victoria.

Victoria private liquor store workers ready for improvements

Private retail liquor stores workers are ready for change in Victoria, BC, and they don’t want to change jobs to accomplish that – they want to transform their jobs.

Like most workers in retail, they face numerous challenges, not the least of which are a skyrocketing cost-of-living coupled with low and stagnant wages. Nevertheless, they’re a highly motivated group and want to spread the word to build greater strength. Even though it often seems they don’t have a voice at their workplaces; safety concerns go unaddressed, they have no say in how tips are managed, and scheduling is often decided on the whim of management – they believe there’s a way forward. Forming a Union.

Alison Williams

Workers from three Cascadia liquor stores recently gathered at the Service Employees International Union Local 2’s office in downtown Victoria. They have all recently joined SEIU and came together to discuss what they’d like to see in a first contract.
“We’re thrilled to know we’ve won our union,” said Alison Williams, one of the workers at the most recently organized Colwood location. “But the company’s claim that we can’t bargain alongside workers from the other stores that inspired us to organize for improvements in the first place is a real blow.” Alison and her colleagues are determined to overcome it. Just one more obstacle.

On November 10, 2023, at the BC Labour Relations Board, the Vancouver Island company, for a second time in recent weeks, asserted that each individual Cascadia liquor store is a separate employer, and is challenging the workers’ application to join bargaining rights between the unionized locations.

When the workers at the Colwood location applied for certification earlier that week, they asked to be treated as one bargaining unit along with the other recently unionized Cascadia stores. The employer, however, has insisted that despite clear common management and ownership, each liquor store is a separate employer. The union has filed a “common employer” application seeking a declaration by the Board on the question.

Private liquors store workers have been feeling the crunch of dramatic increases in the cost of living. In early November, the Centre for Policy Alternatives announced that the new Living Wage for Greater Victoria had shot up to $25.40 an hour. [1] 

“At a time when the cost of living is absolutely skyrocketing, partnering with our co-workers across the chain in Victoria is so incredibly important … I am beyond excited to hear my colleagues at Eagle Creek and Colwood locations adding their voice to ours,” said Alex Palm who led his co-workers at the Quadra Cascadia Liquor location to unionize earlier this year. The Quadra location has a first day of bargaining set for later this month.

News of numerous private liquor store workers successfully winning unions across BC in recent months led Cascadia workers across Victoria to begin talking about the need for increases, safety, security and why now was the time to join SEIU. Eagle Creek and now Colwood are the most recent locations to unionize.

A group of workers siting around a table having a discussion.
Workers gathered recently to discuss first contract bargaining.

“We know our worth and the value we bring to the company, we also know as a collective we can accomplish so much more than as individuals when it comes to bargaining for better wages and workplace conditions. We hope more workers in the industry join us!” said Alyssa Lansdowne-Allan who works at the Eagle Creek location.
According to their website, The Truffles Group has operated in the hospitality, tourism and beverage retail industries on Vancouver Island for over 25 years, including operating 11 Cascadia Liquor store locations. [2]

SEIU Local 2 represents hundreds of workers across British Columbia in the liquor production, distribution and retail industry including Mission Hill Winery, Molson-Coors Beverage Company, Turning Point Brewery and others. Through the Beverage Workers Rising campaign liquor store workers across the province are standing up and demanding better at working conditions.