Workers at an A&W location in Kamloops have unionized, in what organizers say they believe is a first in Canada.
Brian Andrews with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 993 said 13 employees at the Valleyview location signed union cards and were officially certified on Friday.
Andrews said the employees were looking for help communicating with new management, who workers said is consistently ignoring any concerns they bring forward.
“(Management) came in and just ordered the employees around and told them what to do and just treated them with disrespect,” Andrews said. He added that there seems to be issues of favouritism, with certain workers being treated better than others.
Although the choice of an electrical workers union may seem odd for the employees of a fast-food restaurant, Andrews said the worker who found them was happy with the union’s benefits and dues.
“We felt that if they wanted to be represented by us, we weren’t gonna turn them down.” Andrews added that the union feared if they made the A&W workers go elsewhere, it would give the company time to push back.
“A&W are known to be very anti-union and if it took too long and they figured it out, they would have put their union busting team in there.”
In a statement, A&W Canada said: “A&W Franchisees have a strong culture of trust and mutual respect and working together with their teams. In every instance we try to do what’s right, create open lines of communication and build a safe and welcoming work environment. We respect the union process and together with our Franchisees we always look for new ways to work better together.”
The company is based out of North Vancouver and has more than 1,000 locations, according to its website.
Andrews said the A&W workers unionizing is a wake up call that people working minimum wage jobs are realizing they can push for more.
“It shows that people are getting educated.”
He said there are currently 21 people employed at the Valleyview location, and that his union is ready to start talks with A&W Canada.