Towards a Extra Good Pot Union



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

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


Some California hashish workers are a part of UFCW—United Food and Commercial Workers—the most important hashish staff union within the nation, representing over 10,000 workers 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 hashish producer, CannaCraft Manufacturing, and at a hashish 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 cannabis industry acquire 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 usually are not subjected to ‘at-will’ hiring-and-firing, as an alternative, they must 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 huge factor is; with the way in which the hashish {industry} is now, when it comes to there being a whole lot of giant mergers and acquisitions occurring, I believe staff are protected in such areas in the event that they manage. When the Excessive Occasions (retail sector), Have a Coronary heart and Harvest merger occurred a pair years in the past (2020), we have been capable of shield staff and hold their jobs. 

“When it comes to labor-management partnerships, we are able to foyer with legislators as a way 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 centered on labor administration partnerships and combating corporations that don’t acknowledge labor’s proper to arrange.”

Araby mentioned the importance of hashish 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 manner that each non-union {industry} is, the place huge 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 no less than offers staff and the communities a way more sustainable {industry} each when it comes to what the neighborhood can anticipate, and in the end, what staff can anticipate.

“We organized CannaCraft—a hashish producer primarily based in Santa Rosa, CA—final yr and that was fairly vital as a result of, on the time, that firm was going to unilaterally problem 20 to 30 p.c 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 method and discount 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.” 


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

Relating to this improvement, Excessive Occasions was capable of attain out to not solely Abraham Gallegos, Enterprise Agent Organizer for Teamsters Native 1932, but in addition Kenneth P. Ocean, Cultivation Technician at Tikun Olam, who graciously supplied 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 yr in the past. It gained unanimously; 100% of us wished to go this manner. Being unionized offers 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 may assist us much more in each course, together with acquiring security tools that we would have liked to have readily available to do our job correctly. We additionally get advantages from the union. Plus, the merchandise we produce are ten instances higher now that we’re with the union.”

Abe Gallegos of Teamsters confirmed this: 

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

“Thankfully, right here in California we’ve a Labor Peace Settlement (LPA) regulation, which implies any firm with ten or extra workers 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 hashish retail retailer areas—within the Logan Sq. and River North neighborhoods—each voted unanimously to enter right into a CBA with Teamsters Native 777. This was significantly vital as a result of it was the primary two Teamster contracts within the hashish {industry} within the state of Illinois. 

Regarding this unionization, Excessive Occasions was lucky to extensively interview Jim Glimco, President of Teamsters 777, and he shared: “We negotiated a incredible settlement at Fashionable Hashish (MoCa) that covers two areas. What’s thrilling about this {industry} is that we’ve momentum on our aspect; hashish staff all through Illinois are listening to about what’s occurring and asking how they will join. The extent of enthusiasm I’ve seen from staff on this {industry} is absolutely thrilling.”

Glimco mentioned the significance of unions:

“For staff, the advantages are apparent; a union offers them higher wages, higher advantages, larger 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 pointers right into a office, which creates a sure stage of operational stability for administration. Union outlets have decrease turnover, so these employers are capable of expend much less sources on recruiting expertise. 

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

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

Matt McQuaid, Communications Venture Supervisor with the Teamsters’ Dept. of Strategic Initiatives, informed us: “Teamsters symbolize round 500 members working in hashish 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 whole lot of agricultural staff don’t have collective bargaining rights in some elements 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 “Guaranteeing the excessive street in hashish” that argued for sturdy unionization inside the quickly increasing legal-use {industry}. 

The report posits a “low street” state of affairs, by which workers within the hashish {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, similar to entry to satisfactory medical 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 hashish staff may earn anyplace from over $2,800 to almost $8,700 extra per yr 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 basically unions present sure issues to staff that they don’t have after they’re not in a union. Primary, it offers a pathway to higher wages and advantages. Quantity two, it offers a good course of to be in place for any kind of self-discipline and because it pertains to working situations. And third, it offers a profession pathway in order that staff can advance all through the {industry}, acquire information and abilities and receives a commission for it as they develop, similar to by means of an apprenticeship program.” 


Sure regulation corporations supply union avoidance companies that truly help corporations in stopping staff from unionizing using numerous strategies together with utilizing strain and worry techniques on staff contemplating unionization.  Whereas this sub-industry could also be one largely clandestine among the many basic public it wields nice affect nonetheless within the numerous industries contaminated by their undermining of employee beneficial properties and office rights. 

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

“We all know that some hashish corporations have these regulation corporations on retainer (charges paid prematurely to regulation corporations to make the most of their companies when wanted).  These union-busting corporations as we name them will even create faux unions as a way 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 interact 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 impact folks. In hashish, although, what I’ve seen is that there’s a lot solidarity and enthusiasm from these staff. For that cause, union-busting in hashish hasn’t been as efficient because it is likely to be at another companies.”

Glimco prompt how staff might oppose union avoidance agency intrusion: “One of the simplest ways to fight these corporations is to have a united, educated body 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 doubtless it’s to be efficient. 

“There’s additionally quite a lot 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 an inclination 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, exhibit exterior of the Denver cultivation amenities of the hashish firm Inexperienced Dragon, a weed franchise primarily based in Florida in addition to Colorado. 

The protest took problem 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 beneficial properties that would-be unionizers wish to see modified; Inexperienced Dragon workers reported a facility stuffed with mould and bugs. The corporate has ignored workers’ requests for satisfactory air flow. 

Araby was understandably crucial: “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 gained their union in June 2022 and so they now have a contract there.

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

Teamsters Glimco added: “Union busting could be very prevalent. A lot of the employers we organized had employed exterior union busters and engaged in all types of soiled tips as soon as we filed for an election. They’ve fired folks to scare them out of organizing, they mislead their workers. There have been many unfair labor follow prices filed towards corporations for dangerous habits, and we’ve gained nearly all of them.”


Though unions are extremely advantageous to staff and corporations alike, they don’t seem to be excellent 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, meant to maintain doubtlessly extra extreme employee calls for below management.  

Glimco addressed such considerations: “Staff 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 hashish or some other {industry}. Should you do the maths, 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 stage, my place as President of Native 777 in addition to that of the manager 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 many of the energy inside 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 standard 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 p.c assist that. That is necessary as a result of basically, you don’t win a robust contract if staff aren’t concerned. If the union believes staff are nothing greater than dues-paying memes and so they don’t truly deserve rights within the union, then disgrace on the union for doing that. UFCW basically believes in office democracy, which implies staff organizing and interesting themselves within the organizing effort.

“In each single hashish 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 manner, they need to transfer up the chain to get to the union leaders in order that they will perceive why staff are feeling that manner. The union is simply 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 is just not conscious of 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, and so they make investments on this group and so they deserve every little thing they anticipate from it.

“We’ve 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 stage we’ve to fiercely advocate for the decriminalization of hashish in addition to the legalization of hashish, 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 total group, from the store ground all the way in which to worldwide stage, so we’re actually supportive of them. The employees on these committees are the driving power behind successful elections and securing collective bargaining agreements. They’re those who make the choices about what the priorities are in terms of 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 is just not a 3rd occasion 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 manage and discount 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 hashish unionization: “It’s but to be seen if the {industry} itself believes within the union mannequin; I’d 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 hand over when it will get laborious, staff are going to get an increasing number of organized. We’ve to wrestle and combat as a result of because it turns into authorized throughout the nation, you’re going to see an increasing number of bigger corporations getting concerned that aren’t essentially pleasant to unions, and we’re already seeing this. So we’ve to harness the power of the prevailing staff we symbolize and must proceed to combat for staff’ area within the middle of all these legalization efforts. 

“The problem is: how will we get expert and educated staff into that subject so the businesses can retain their staff?  So we’re attempting to determine one thing out with local people faculties to see if there are any federal or state grants we are able to 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 hashish {industry}, and union staff inside it, is constructive, however I can’t inform you it’s going to be 100% going our manner. 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 transferring in a constructive course.”

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

“It’s actually necessary that in these corporations which are making a lot cash, that hashish staff really feel like this is usually a profession. It’s necessary that they will keep on this {industry} for his or her total lives, in the event that they wish to. And when you will have a union, you will have wage will increase and advantages and all types of different issues that make (a lifelong profession) a risk for staff. If any individual needs to work on this {industry} for 23 years, they need to be capable to try this and the union makes that potential.” 

His fellow Teamsters brother Jim Glimco was equally infused with optimism: “I believe the monitor file of organized labor within the hashish {industry} reveals that we’re doing the fitting issues to make sure that it is a profitable endeavor. Ten years in the past, there have been hardly any unionized hashish staff, now there are 1000’s. Over the long-term, I’d wish 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 hashish enterprise, however they will’t as a result of they want higher wages and advantages. A union fixes that drawback. The extra unions there are in hashish, the extra we could have the fitting folks in the fitting positions.”

Glimco “completely” expects hashish unionization to extend. He elaborated: “Of the 21 states the place leisure hashish is at the moment 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 robust. It was simply legalized in Maryland and Missouri, two states the place we’ve 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 neatly requiring labor peace agreements from employers as a situation of securing licenses. Which means that employers must agree that they gained’t interact in union busting if the employees search union illustration. All of this portends nicely for hashish unionization.”

Tikun Olam develop tech Kenneth Ocean was requested about what recommendation he would give to staff at a hashish firm with lower than supreme situations and administration who have been searching for to unionize: “I’d inform them to attempt to attain out to somebody along with your native Teamsters and discover out the knowledge you’ll want to unionize. You don’t have anything to lose, and every little thing to achieve. We bought concerned when our union steward—and hashish 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 stuffed with model new hashish staff, the youthful era, so it’s as much as them to set their expectations for a profession going ahead. Speaking to staff on this {industry}, you discover so much nonetheless don’t perceive their primary rights. A few of these folks work at corporations that don’t pay them till the corporate makes gross sales, so you will have staff who aren’t being paid well timed, which isn’t authorized. 

“Unionization is a course of that everybody is entitled to, and so they can attain out to no matter union they wish to speak to, after which put collectively their very own voices to unionize. Teamsters symbolize the workforce, however on the finish of the day, the employees are the union. They’re those who will push the {industry} to the subsequent stage. The steps to unionize are straightforward; contact a neighborhood 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 hashish provide chain. On the west coast, we’re already successful 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 are able to’t dwell in a world the place sooner or later each hand that touches the plant, from harvest to retail, belongs to a union member.”

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