Increasing number of cannabis employees vote to join unions in Illinois

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

A handful of Illinois-based cannabis facilities have decided to unionize. Announced by The International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, employees successfully voted on the unionization on Thursday, June 17.

According to an official news release, workers at Sunnyside dispensary in Champaign voted in favor of joining UFCW Local 881. This is the third Cresco Labs-owned cannabis facility where employees have voted to unionize with UFCW.

Cannabis workers have been assisted by the UFCW since 2011.  Since its inception in June 1979, the Union has provided representation for approximately 1.3 million workers across the United States and Canada. 

Although UFCW is the most preferred option for cannabis industry employees who require labor union protection, it is rivaled by another union known as “The United Cannabis Workers (UWC).” This group is responsible for creating the first ever National Cannabis Workers Pension Fund.

Employees at Modern Cannabis jump on-board with Teamster’s unionization

On Friday, June 18, employees at Modern Cannabis in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood voted to unionize with the Teamsters. When the momentous occasion occurred, Modern Cannabis celebrated the fact that two of its Chicago-based stores had successfully unionized during the month of June alone; employees at the company’s facility in the River North neighborhood also joined the UFCW after voting on the issue.

The rise of cannabis worker unionization emerges amid the continued progression of organized labor. A news release published by the UFCW Local 881 also confirmed that two other legally operating cannabis stores in Illinois had joined the union: Ascend in downtown Springfield and Windy City Cannabis on Weed Street. 

About labor unions and cannabis worker unionization

Actively-operating labor unions can be found sprinkled across various places in the U.S. This type of service extends across a multitude of trades and markets, including retail, manufacturing, food processing, meat packing, agriculture, hospitality, health care, textile, security and chemical trades.

As the cannabis industry undergoes an economic boom Marijuana Business Factbook analysts predict that combined sales of medical and recreational cannabis in the U.S. will hit $45 billion by 2025 cannabis worker unions are fast becoming popular options for mediating better employee benefits, wages, resource access and safe working conditions.

Despite being an appealing avenue for cannabis workers to venture down, unionization does have some negative connotations attached to it. For example, unions often require some kind of fee and it is not uncommon for discrimination to exist within the organization. Moreover, union vs. nonunion employees may be treated differently from one another.

This is not to say that cannabis worker unionization isn’t a good idea, however. Once members are organized, they can play their role peacefully in the knowledge that they are working for a legitimate business and are safeguarded by job security.