Marijuana Unions Notch Victories in Illinois and New Jersey

Labor unions in Illinois and New Jersey recently declared victories in contract disputes that impact dozens of employees.

(Photo credit: Teamster.org).

According to a press release Teamsters Local 777 has reached tentative agreements for cannabis consultants and agents-in-charge at Zen Leaf dispensaries in Chicago and Schaumburg, Ill. Zen Leaf’s parent company, Verano, is the third Multi-state Operator (MSO) that Local 777 has successfully bargained agreements with after launching a campaign to organize the cannabis industry less than three years ago.

Improvements included in the agreement include wage increases ranging from $17 to $20 over the next three years, paid time off, employer-funded retirement contributions, overtime allocated by seniority, and the replacement of “at-will” employment with a just process for addressing disciplinary matters.

“This contract includes monumental improvements that the workers on this committee fought incredibly hard to achieve, and it’s been a pleasure working alongside such a dynamic, energetic, brilliant, and tenacious group of trade unionists,” said Jim Glimco , President of Local 777. “If past is prologue, the future of the Chicago cannabis industry belongs to us.”

In New Jersey, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, Local 360, announced that Columbia Care, Inc.’s Cannabist retail location in Deptford, NJ., has voted to ratify its first labor contract. The contract covers Dispensary Associates and Senior Dispensary Associates, and is noteworthy both because the vote was unanimous, and because its guaranteed wage increases are retroactive to March. The contract comes more than a year after Cannabist employees petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to support their push to unionize with UFCW.

Workers at Cannabist elected to unionized to ensure their rights were protected and acknowledged as New Jersey’s cannabis industry evolves and expands. That push to unionize, gave employees a voice, and critical resources from Local 360, that led directly to the development of this first contract.

“With this unanimous contract vote, workers at Cannabist have taken a big step towards a better future for themselves and for their families,” said Sam Ferraino, Jr., UFCW Local 360 president. “It’s a testament to their determination and their commitment to this industry. They deserve every congratulations.”

Columbia Care’s Cannabist dispensary in Deptford was the company’s first U.S. location to unionize. Columbia Care is currently licensed in 18 U.S. jurisdictions and bills itself as one of the largest and most experienced cultivators, manufacturers and providers of cannabis products and services in the nation.

“Workers are recognizing their importance and finding their voice,” said Tom Donoghue, Director of Cannabis at UFCW Local 360. “The businesses in this industry that will flourish long-term are those that listen to them and deliver the working conditions they need and deserve.”

Earlier this month dozens of workers in California and Missouri’s legal marijuana industry voted to unionize for the first time.

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