Staff at A&W in Kamloops, B.C., unionize in what organizers say is a first in Canada
13 workers at Valleyview location signed union cards to form IBEW Local 993
A group of workers in Kamloops, B.C., are believed to be the first staff at a Canadian A&W restaurant to successfully unionize.
Thirteen people who work at the Valleyview location signed union cards and were certified with the B.C. Labour Relations Board on Friday, according to Local 993 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).
Brian Andrews, an organizer for Local 993, says the workers have issues with how the managers are treating them and they are looking for clarity and consistency when it comes to the discounts they receive on A&W meals during their shifts.
"Management aren't trained correctly on actual management issues, and when they come in to work they treat their employees with disrespect ... by yelling and screaming and demanding and ordering them around," he said.
Andrews said an employee found the IBEW online and contacted them, saying they liked the benefits that the union had secured for its other non-electrician members through collective agreements.
In a statement issued Monday, A&W Canada did not address specific concerns raised by workers.
The company says it respects the union process and A&W Canada and its franchisees are always looking for new ways to work better together.
"In every instance we try to do what's right, create open lines of communication and build a safe and welcoming work environment," the company said.
The burger chain is headquartered in North Vancouver, B.C., with its website saying there are over 1,000 locations across Canada.
Andrews says the union took the group on because they wanted to see them succeed.
"Working with a major company like A&W, they're known to be anti-union and so we kind of just have to run with it," he said.
"We said, 'we should just jump on this and get them unionized as quick as possible.'"
Twenty people were employed at the restaurant at the time of certification, but Andrews said the number of workers employed during the card-signing drive fluctuated because of a high staff turnover rate at the restaurant.
In September 2022, workers at a Kamloops Sephora cosmetics store unionized, a first for employees of that company in North America, according to the United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 1518.
With files from Jenifer Norwell