The United Food & Commercial Workers union, which won a vote in January to represent workers at a marijuana-production facility in Joliet, has set its sights on the retail side of the cannabis business.
UFCW has filed petitions to hold union elections at four retail facilities in the Chicago area: MedMen’s dispensary in Evanston, Nature’s Care in Rolling Meadows, Sunnyside in Lakeview and Compassionate Care Center in Naperville.
The dispensaries are among 59 statewide that are operated by four of the biggest cannabis companies: Nature’s Care is owned by Acreage Holdings, Sunnyside is owned by Cresco Labs and CCC is owned by Green Thumb Industries. Like MedMen, all three are public companies.
“Green Thumb respects the rights of our employees,” the company said in a statement. “One of these fundamental labor rights is the right to freedom of association. We are reviewing the petition for merit.”
The fast-growing cannabis industry is a tantalizing target for unions, which have experienced years of membership decline. Illinois lawmakers had unions in mind when they approved recreational-marijuana sales last year.
After Teamsters failed to win an election at GTI’s production facility in Rock Island, Washington, D.C.-based UFCW won a vote at Cresco’s Joliet production site.
“We want to show people that retail product and transportation are all better off when they go union,” said Zach Koutsky, legislative and political director for Local 881. “This is being done with frontline essential workers in a pandemic.”
Dispensaries have been deemed essential businesses in Illinois and many other states.
In a statement, Acreage Holdings urged a delay in the vote. “Given these unprecedented times, we hope that the labor organizers agree that right now, our employees’ top priority should be the health and well-being of themselves, their loved ones and the customers they care for every day. This is an important decision for them to weigh, to be sure, and we believe that out of respect for the situation, our employees would be best-served by not having to consider this until we are past the pandemic.”
Cresco and MedMen did not respond to requests for comment.