cannabis workers unite

Towards a Extra Excellent Pot Union


Following the November 2022 elections, 21 U.S. states have legalized weed for leisure use, lots of them now entrenched with a full-blown weed commerce. This quickly increasing {industry} is populated with 1000’s of productive and impressive staff, lots of whom actively search to prepare or have already created union partnerships of their office.

Wherever from 30,000 to 40,000 weed {industry} staff are estimated to be unionized throughout America.


Some California weed staff are a part of UFCW—United Meals and Business Employees—the most important weed staff union within the nation, representing over 10,000 staff nationwide.

UFCW Native 5—which presently represents over 500 weed staff throughout the famed “Bay Space” of Northern California—is branching out past representing dispensary staff, as in June 2021, when UFCW brokered a historic first-ever settlement to unionize staff at each a California-based weed producer, CannaCraft Manufacturing, and at a weed lab, Sonoma Lab Works.

We have been lucky to talk in-depth with Jim Araby, Director of Strategic Campaigns for UFCW 5. When requested about what each the person weed employee and the collective weed {industry} achieve from unionization, Araby elaborated:

“The employee advantages are very clear, such because the distinction between union and non-union wages within the corporations we’ve organized within the Bay Space. DIspensary staff and supply drivers are making $3-to-$4 extra per hour than their non-union equivalents.

“Additionally union staff should not subjected to ‘at-will’ hiring-and-firing, as an alternative, they should undergo an precise course of for ‘simply trigger’ so in the event that they get fired for some cause, there’s a process in place, whereas non-union staff simply get fired instantly below the ‘at-will’ regulation.

“The opposite massive factor is; with the way in which the weed {industry} is now, by way of there being a number of giant mergers and acquisitions taking place, I believe staff are protected in such areas in the event that they arrange. When the Cannabinoids Garden (retail sector), Have a Coronary heart and Harvest merger occurred a pair years in the past (2020), we have been capable of defend staff and maintain their jobs.

“By way of labor-management partnerships, we will foyer with legislators to be able to create a extra streamlined regulatory course of so that companies can broaden and thrive, and staff can get a chunk of that. And we’re targeted on labor administration partnerships and combating corporations that don’t acknowledge labor’s proper to prepare.”

Araby mentioned the importance of weed unionization: “As a result of there’s going to be tens of 1000’s of people that work within the {industry}, and if staff don’t have rights, in the event that they don’t have a voice, it’s going to finish up the identical approach that each non-union {industry} is, the place massive firms are going to manage the wages and advantages of staff on this {industry}.

“However with the unions having a foothold as this {industry} grows, it at the least provides staff and the communities a way more sustainable {industry} each by way of what the neighborhood can anticipate, and finally, what staff can anticipate.

“We organized CannaCraft—a weed producer based mostly in Santa Rosa, CA—final 12 months and that was fairly important as a result of, on the time, that firm was going to unilaterally situation 20 to 30 % pay-cuts for everyone and we have been capable of cease that. We have been additionally in a position to make use of a smoother strategy and cut price in good religion with the corporate to take care of most jobs on the plant in addition to being on the pathway to create Cal OSHA—the Occupational Security and Well being Administration—requirements.”


Employees at Tikun Olam, a weed cultivation facility based mostly within the California metropolis of Adelanto, gave themselves an early Christmas reward on December 22, 2021 once they voted unanimously to ratify a labor settlement with Teamsters Native 1932. This act gave Tikun the excellence of being the primary unionized weed facility within the Inland Empire, the huge metropolitan area adjoining to coastal Southern California. The collective bargaining settlement (CBA) was accredited after Tikun staff voted within the majority to unionize. Past the contract, the corporate and Teamsters 1932 agreed to associate to offer coaching alternatives via apprenticeships with Tikun and the {industry} as a complete.

Concerning this improvement, Cannabinoids Garden was capable of attain out to not solely Abraham Gallegos, Enterprise Agent Organizer for Teamsters Native 1932, but additionally Kenneth P. Ocean, Cultivation Technician at Tikun Olam, who graciously offered the employees perspective for this text.

Mr. Ocean defined the method that led to his firm becoming a member of Teamsters: “I used to be with the corporate for about six months earlier than we voted to unionize a few 12 months in the past. It received unanimously; a hundred percent of us needed to go this fashion. Being unionized provides us job safety to not getting fired immediately, in addition to giving us a possibility to have a profession on this enterprise.

“The administration right here was having struggles and miscommunicating so far as procedures, so we felt a union might assist us much more in each course, together with acquiring security tools that we wanted to have available to do our job correctly. We additionally get advantages from the union. Plus, the merchandise we produce are ten instances much better now that we’re with the union.”

Abe Gallegos of Teamsters confirmed this:

“Tikun Olam went for months with out producing income. It had big turnover with fixed firings and crop failures. However since unionization this staff has been producing nice weed right here in Adelanto. It’s been an entire 180 diploma turnaround at that cultivation facility.

“Happily, right here in California we have now a Labor Peace Settlement (LPA) regulation, which implies any firm with ten or extra staff has to signal an LPA to get their enterprise licensing in California, which prevents them from partaking in union-busting.”

Within the authorized metropolis of Chicago, in March 2022, Windy Metropolis weed staff at not one however two weed retail retailer places—within the Logan Sq. and River North neighborhoods—each voted unanimously to enter right into a CBA with Teamsters Native 777. This was notably important as a result of it was the primary two Teamster contracts within the weed {industry} within the state of Illinois.

Regarding this unionization, Cannabinoids Garden was lucky to extensively interview Jim Glimco, President of Teamsters 777, and he shared: “We negotiated a improbable settlement at Trendy Weed (MoCa) that covers two places. What’s thrilling about this {industry} is that we have now momentum on our aspect; weed staff all through Illinois are listening to about what’s taking place and asking how they’ll enroll. The extent of enthusiasm I’ve seen from staff on this {industry} is actually thrilling.”

Glimco mentioned the significance of unions:

“For staff, the advantages are apparent; a union provides them much better wages, much better advantages, better job safety, a safer office, a voice on the job and a lot extra. For employers, there are additionally an a variety of benefits; a CBA implements a really clear set of tips right into a office, which creates a sure degree of operational stability for administration. Union retailers have decrease turnover, so these employers are capable of expend much less assets on recruiting expertise.

“For weed particularly, given the ugly and tragic historical past of its criminalization, I believe it’s vital to shoppers that employers show a dedication to social justice. When employers permit the method of unionization to play out pretty and cut price in good religion, it demonstrates that they’re severe about this, and their clients recognize it.”

In June 2022, drivers and fleet upkeep staff on the Los Angeles-based weed distribution firm Nabis Weed voted within the majority to enter right into a CBA with Teamsters Native 630. Just like the CBA at Tikun Olam, this explicit labor settlement carries further weight as a result of it’s a signal that unionization is shifting past merely representing retail corporations.

Matt McQuaid, Communications Undertaking Supervisor with the Teamsters’ Dept. of Strategic Initiatives, advised us: “Teamsters characterize round 500 members working in weed nationwide in authorized states like Illinois, California and Massachusetts.”

Additional, McQuaid confirmed that it was “thrilling” that the Teamsters have been representing Nabis, a distribution firm, including: “That was cool as a result of sadly a number of agricultural staff don’t have collective bargaining rights in some components of the nation. However in California, they do.”


In September 2021, Washington D.C.-based nonprofit suppose tank the Financial Coverage Institute issued a report entitled “Making certain the excessive street in weed” that argued for sturdy unionization throughout the quickly increasing legal-use {industry}.

The report posits a “low street” state of affairs, wherein staff within the weed {industry} endure the identical inequities that non-union staff face in equally aligned industries like agriculture. These detrimental practices and insurance policies plague staff with low wages, minimal advantages, equivalent to entry to satisfactory medical health insurance. In addition to the aforementioned ‘at will’ restrictions that threaten a employee with unemployment at a second’s discover, typically unfairly.

By means of distinction, the “excessive street” paradigm makes use of unionization to make sure that the employees are protected against arbitrary firings, and earn a good wage.  The report suggests weed staff might earn wherever from over $2,800 to almost $8,700 extra per 12 months working below a union contract.

UFCW’s Jim Araby weighed in on the EPI report: “Clearly I agree with their findings as a result of essentially unions present sure issues to staff that they don’t have once they’re not in a union. Primary, it gives a pathway to higher wages and advantages. Quantity two, it gives a good course of to be in place for any form of self-discipline and because it pertains to working circumstances. And third, it gives a profession pathway in order that staff can advance all through the {industry}, achieve data and expertise and receives a commission for it as they develop, equivalent to via an apprenticeship program.”


Sure regulation corporations provide union avoidance providers that truly help corporations in stopping staff from unionizing using varied strategies together with utilizing stress and concern techniques on staff contemplating unionization.  Whereas this sub-industry could also be one largely clandestine among the many common public it wields nice affect nonetheless within the varied industries contaminated by their undermining of employee features and office rights.

Araby is all too conscious: “Union avoidance corporations are a rising presence within the weed {industry}; the large union-busting regulation corporations like Morgan Lewis and Littler Mendelson, in addition to others, see [union avoidance] as a progress {industry} for them.

“We all know that some weed corporations have these regulation corporations on retainer (charges paid upfront to regulation corporations to make the most of their providers when wanted).  These union-busting corporations as we name them will even create faux unions to be able to keep away from the labor peace settlement necessities. So we all know that is round, and one of the best ways to cope with that’s to ensure we have interaction staff and we get some enforcement on the regulatory aspect from the state, in addition to have the federal authorities go after regulation corporations that knowingly break labor legal guidelines.”

Glimco agreed union avoidance corporations pose a menace to unionization within the {industry}: “Sadly, their scare techniques and lies can affect individuals. In weed, although, what I’ve seen is that there’s a lot solidarity and enthusiasm from these staff. For that cause, union-busting in weed hasn’t been as efficient because it could be at another companies.”

Glimco prompt how staff might oppose union avoidance agency intrusion: “One of the best ways to fight these corporations is to have a united, educated team of workers, and a robust organizing committee ready for an anti-union marketing campaign forward of time. The extra staff know that the anti-union propaganda is coming, the much less seemingly it’s to be efficient.

“There’s additionally plenty of union avoidance consultants who was once employed by a union, however then bought fired for wrong-doing or incompetence. When staff discover that out, they have a tendency to doubt the credibility of the union busters.”


In April 2022 UFCW 7 held a protest that noticed union members, lead by organizer Jimena Peterson, show outdoors of the Denver cultivation amenities of the weed firm Inexperienced Dragon, a weed franchise based mostly in Florida in addition to Colorado.

The protest took situation with the union-busting techniques of Inexperienced Dragon co-owner and head cultivator Ryan Milligan after Milligan and the corporate fired a trio of growhouse staff for supporting efforts to unionize the workforce.

And it’s removed from mere materials features that would-be unionizers wish to see modified; Inexperienced Dragon employees reported a facility stuffed with mould and bugs. The corporate has ignored staff’ requests for satisfactory air flow.

Araby was understandably important: “Union busting is disgusting because it goes, and because the [Green Dragon] case proves, the corporate was at fault, so that they needed to rerun that election and the employees received their union in June 2022 they usually now have a contract there.

“When employers spend assets on stopping staff from organizing and having rights at work, they’re mainly spending assets towards the democratic course of. We at UFCW suppose that cash ought to be much better spent on permitting the employees to resolve if they need a union or not.”

Teamsters Glimco added: “Union busting may be very prevalent. Many of the employers we organized had employed outdoors union busters and engaged in all types of soiled tips as soon as we filed for an election. They’ve fired individuals to scare them out of organizing, they mislead their employees. There have been many unfair labor observe costs filed towards corporations for dangerous habits, and we’ve received virtually all of them.”


Though unions are extremely advantageous to staff and firms alike, they don’t seem to be good nor immune from criticism. Complaints embrace extreme dues that don’t justify the advantages in addition to unions functioning as little greater than one other division of the company, supposed to maintain doubtlessly extra extreme employee calls for below management.

Glimco addressed such issues: “Employees don’t pay dues till after they’ve ratified their first contract. Check out any collective bargaining settlement that was negotiated by Teamsters Native 777, in weed or every other {industry}. In the event you do the mathematics, you’ll see that the wages and advantages our members obtain is exponentially greater than the price of dues. Dues are a tiny fraction of the financial advantages you derive out of your union membership.

“This union’s course is guided by the rank-and-file. Store stewards, contract ratifications, the management on the nationwide degree, my place as President of Native 777 in addition to that of the chief board; these are all determined by direct vote of our members. Moreover, our union is structurally a bottom-up group. Native associates are autonomous and have a lot of the energy throughout the Teamsters.”

As referenced by Glimco, a “rank-and-file committee” refers to a middle of office democracy created by the precise staff of an organization versus a conventional union hierarchy.

UFCW’s Jim Araby totally helps the rank-and-file system: “The core worth of any union is employee democracy, so the extra staff wish to take possession of the union, the higher. We 110 % assist that. That is vital as a result of essentially, you don’t win a robust contract if staff aren’t concerned. If the union believes staff are nothing greater than dues-paying memes they usually don’t truly deserve rights within the union, then disgrace on the union for doing that. UFCW essentially believes in office democracy, which implies staff organizing and interesting themselves within the organizing effort.

“In each single weed firm I’ve organized there was a rank-and-file employee committee on the bargaining desk, with me bargaining that contract.”

When requested what staff ought to do concerning their complaints or points with the union, Araby strongly prompt: “When staff really feel that approach, they need to transfer up the chain to get to the union leaders in order that they’ll perceive why staff are feeling that approach. The union is barely as sturdy because the employee’s participation in it. You solely get out of it what you place into it.

“However I do suppose if staff really feel the union just isn’t attentive to their points, they need to present as much as the union corridor and demand a response from the union, as a result of they’re the union, they usually make investments on this group they usually deserve the whole lot they anticipate from it.

“We have now to maintain fiercely advocating for employee’s rights within the office, combating for union recognition, and bargaining for sturdy contracts. On the native state and federal degree we have now to fiercely advocate for the decriminalization of weed in addition to the legalization of weed, and assert the employees’ voice to be a vital a part of these state and native legal guidelines.”

The Teamsters’ Glimco reiterated his reverence for rank-and-file: “Rank-and-file committees are the spine of our whole group, from the store ground all the way in which to worldwide degree, so we’re actually supportive of them. The employees on these committees are the driving power behind profitable elections and securing collective bargaining agreements. They’re those who make the choices about what the priorities are with regards to collective bargaining, what points should be addressed within the office, and what actions should be taken throughout an organizing or contract marketing campaign.

“We even have rank-and-file members on the negotiating committees for our nationwide contracts, a few of which cowl tens of 1000’s of members. The union just isn’t a 3rd social gathering the place staff rent a consultant to advocate on their behalf whereas they sit again and take a passive function. Rank-and-file Teamster members arrange and cut price on behalf of themselves, and the native union is right here to facilitate that course of.”


Araby was ambivalent when requested about the way forward for weed unionization: “It’s but to be seen if the {industry} itself believes within the union mannequin; I might say some corporations we work with worth such partnerships and others who’re sitting on the sidelines and even aggressively combating us.”

But he nonetheless supplied optimism: “If unions don’t quit when it will get exhausting, staff are going to get increasingly organized. We have now to battle and battle as a result of because it turns into authorized throughout the nation, you’re going to see increasingly bigger corporations getting concerned that aren’t essentially pleasant to unions, and we’re already seeing this. So we have now to harness the power of the present staff we characterize and should proceed to battle for staff’ area within the heart of all these legalization efforts.

“The problem is: how will we get expert and skilled staff into that area so the businesses can retain their staff?  So we’re attempting to determine one thing out with local people schools to see if there are any federal or state grants we will pull all the way down to do workforce coaching and improvement coaching so inside candidates can develop in that job. The way forward for the weed {industry}, and union staff inside it, is constructive, however I can’t let you know it’s going to be a hundred percent going our approach. However I do know so long as I’m within the union, we’re combating for this and the union is combating for this, and we’re shifting in a constructive course.”

The Teamsters’ Matt McQuaid opined: “I undoubtedly see unionization rising. I believe there’s a number of enthusiasm amongst individuals on this {industry} for unions and also you’re solely going to see it develop.

“It’s actually vital that in these corporations which are making a lot cash, that weed staff really feel like this generally is a profession. It’s vital that they’ll keep on this {industry} for his or her whole lives, in the event that they wish to. And when you could have a union, you could have wage will increase and advantages and all types of different issues that make (a lifelong profession) a chance for staff. If anyone desires to work on this {industry} for 23 years, they need to be capable to do this and the union makes that attainable.”

His fellow Teamsters brother Jim Glimco was equally infused with optimism: “I believe the observe report of organized labor within the weed {industry} exhibits that we’re doing the correct issues to make sure that it is a profitable endeavor. Ten years in the past, there have been hardly any unionized weed staff, now there are 1000’s. Over the long-term, I’d prefer to see among the bigger gamers within the {industry} negotiate nationwide grasp agreements with our union.

“So far as benefiting the entire {industry}, proper now, lots of people wish to keep within the weed enterprise, however they’ll’t as a result of they want much better wages and advantages. A union fixes that downside. The extra unions there are in weed, the extra we can have the correct individuals in the correct positions.”

Glimco “completely” expects weed unionization to extend. He elaborated: “Of the 21 states the place leisure weed is presently authorized, solely 5 of them are right-to-work (which allows corporations to suppress unionization efforts).”

“Nevertheless, even within the right-to-work states, the Teamsters Union is powerful. It was simply legalized in Maryland and Missouri, two states the place we have now a robust labor motion. Leisure dispensaries simply began opening in New York, the state with the best focus of union members in your entire nation.

“Many of those states and municipalities are very well requiring labor peace agreements from employers as a situation of securing licenses. Which means that employers should agree that they received’t have interaction in union busting if the employees search union illustration. All of this portends effectively for weed unionization.”

Tikun Olam develop tech Kenneth Ocean was requested about what recommendation he would give to staff at a weed firm with lower than ideally suited circumstances and administration who have been searching for to unionize: “I’d inform them to attempt to attain out to somebody together with your native Teamsters and discover out the knowledge it’s worthwhile to unionize. You don’t have anything to lose, and the whole lot to realize. We bought concerned when our union steward—and weed cultivation lead—Doug Herring contacted the Teamsters and filed the paperwork with them and bought in contact with Abe Gallegos. Teamsters 1932 made the unionization course of occur fairly fast.”

When requested the identical query, Abe Gallegos constructed upon Ken Ocean’s recommendation: “This {industry} is full of model new weed staff, the youthful technology, so it’s as much as them to set their expectations for a profession going ahead. Speaking to staff on this {industry}, you discover rather a lot nonetheless don’t perceive their primary rights. A few of these individuals work at corporations that don’t pay them till the corporate makes gross sales, so you could have staff who aren’t being paid well timed, which isn’t authorized.

“Unionization is a course of that everybody is entitled to, they usually can attain out to no matter union they wish to discuss to, after which put collectively their very own voices to unionize. Teamsters characterize the workforce, however on the finish of the day, the employees are the union. They’re those who will push the {industry} to the following degree. The steps to unionize are straightforward; contact an area union rep, then from that time we empower the employee to allow them to take possession of their office expertise.”

We let Teamsters 777 President Jim Glimco have the final phrase as he appeared to a doubtlessly dazzling future: “I believe as legalization spreads you’re going to see unionization broaden into your entire weed provide chain. On the west coast, we’re already profitable elections at distribution corporations and growers, and I believe that’s an thrilling indicator of what’s on the horizon. There’s no cause we will’t reside in a world the place someday each hand that touches the plant, from harvest to retail, belongs to a union member.”

Cannabinoids Garden