PharmaCann cannabis workers in New York and Curaleaf cannabis store workers in Illinois ratify union contract

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

A group of employees at two different cannabis dispensaries in the United States have voted to ratify union contracts with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW)

According to Local 881 of the UFCW, one of those dispensaries is Curaleaf Holdings in Worth, Illinois and the other is a New York-based cannabis business called Verilife; the latter of which is operated by PharmaCann.

Based on a recent report published by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), unionization is vital to improving safety, pay rates and health care benefits for new jobs in the nascent cannabis industry.

Cannabis worker unionization: Workers from MSO Curaleaf vote in favor of the union

In March of 2020, Curaleaf employees started organizing their unionization efforts with Local 328 — a union that claims it has “never stopped growing.” It was during this time that the coronavirus pandemic began proliferating across the United States and, as a direct effect, negatively impacted workers.

Almost one year after Curaleaf employees initiated the cannabis workers’ campaign on April 9, 2021, the ultimate four ballots were counted. Based on the outcome, the union was backed with a final vote of 8-3.

A news release issued by Local 881 showed that employees at Curaleaf’s dispensary in Worth, Illinois spoke of numerous problems, including wage deficits, scheduling issues and poor benefits options. Moreover, the cannabis company’s employees expressed a desire to gain more COVID-19 protections. 

The results are expected to be ratified by the National Labor Relations Board.

“Illinois welcomed the cannabis industry with open arms and the larger companies, like Curaleaf, are clearly reaping all the benefits and posting major revenue gains,” President of Local 881 UFCW Steve Powell said in a news release. “It’s clear now that the companies need to be held accountable for how they operate and more importantly how they treat their workers.”

Local 881 has also reached an agreement on cannabis contracts with various other dispensaries located in Illinois, including Chicago-based Cresco Labs and Massachusetts-based Curaleaf.

Curaleaf is a multistate operator (MSO) that operates a total of 10 dispensaries in Illinois. Company shares can be found trading on the Canadian Securities Exchange under the ticker “CURA” and on the over-the-counter (OTC) stock trading markets under the ticker “CURLF“. 

Cannabis worker unionization: PharmaCann cannabis workers in New York confirm union contract 

Another cannabis company that has voted to validate a three-year union contract is PharmaCann. To be more specific, the Illinois-based national cannabis brand is celebrating the ratification of a union contract for its Verilife employees in New York. 

Verilife, which is owned by the vertically-integrated cannabis giant, confirmed the contract with the Local 338 Retail, Wholesale, Department Store Union (RWDSU)/UFCW. 

Around 60 workers are believed to have received coverage from the cannabis union worker contract, all of whom are affiliated with PharmaCann’s cannabis grow and processing facility in Orange County, New York. 

Details of the contract suggest that it will extend over three years. Numerous benefits and wage increases will be included, such as:

  • A higher minimum wage for new employees;
  • Annual wage bonuses and increases; hourly pay will surge $1.25 per hour for the initial year of the contract, before inflating at a rate of 3.75 percent in the second and third years;
  • Two new paid holidays and extra paid time off;
  • Annuity benefit increase and 401(k)-matching program.

Approximately 500 workers from seven different medical cannabis companies in New York are represented by Local 338. An official news release from the union indicates that contract discussions will commence with PharmaCann at some point during the month of November.