September 22, 2016
In September, two years after medical marijuana was passed into law in New York, workers at Vireo Health ratified their first RWDSU contract. The Vireo Health workers are members of RWDSU Local 338, and this union contract is the first in the history of New York state’s new medical cannabis industry.
The new three-year contract covers workers at Vireo Health’s cultivation and manufacturing facility in Fulton County and at all four of its dispensaries located in Albany, Johnson City (Binghamton), Queens and White Plains. The contract will provide workers with paid time off for holidays, sick days, and vacation, as well as bereavement leave. Workers will receive retirement benefits through an annuity fund that the company is paying for. Full-time workers will also be receiving medical coverage for themselves and their families under the contract. The agreement also includes “profitability milestones” for workers that will kick in as the patient base increases and the company becomes more successful.
“As someone starting a new family, it’s great to have the security and stability of a union contract,” said Vireo Cultivator Matt Denten. “I’m proud to be working in the medical cannabis industry and know that my work is helping patients live meaningful lives. My coworkers and I all agreed that we wanted to be represented by Local 338 to make sure that we were protected as workers and had good benefits and wages.”
“The strong union contract approved by the workers at Vireo will ensure that they have secure, middle class jobs so that they can provide for themselves and their families,” said RWDSU Local 338 President John Durso. “This agreement provides these dedicated workers peace of mind that will allow them to focus on what matters most: helping those who are suffering and creating quality medicine.”
RWDSU Local 338 was at the forefront of the medical marijuana movement in New York state, working with legislators to craft legislation that would help patients and protect workers in the new industry. A bill legalizing the production and sale of marijuana for medical purposes was signed into law in New York in 2014, and in part due to the efforts of Local 338, the medical marijuana companies were required to have labor peace agreements where they wouldn’t interfere with workers’ efforts to join a union.
August 19, 2016
Perma, a recreational cannabis producer-processer in Tacoma, Wash., is proudly declaring that their products are union made with a new a UFCW label. The workers at Perma are members of UFCW Local 367, and made history in June of this year as the first recreational cannabis producer-processor in Washington state to join a union. The UFCW union label will be attached to Perma’s AK-47 and Gorilla Glu products.
“This label will help customers choose a quality product that is made by my hard-working coworkers with the quality of jobs we want in the state,” said Janie Wallace, one of the processors at Perma. “My grandfather was a longshoreman and I’m proud to continue in the UFCW family in this emerging industry.”
This label will be used nationwide as workers in the cannabis business choose to help level the playing field within the industry.
March 15, 2016
Workers at South Coast Safe Access in Santa Ana, California, recently ratified their first contract and joined UFCW Local 324. These 20 workers are the first Orange County cannabis workers to form a union, and are helping set higher standards for the California cannabis industry.
“South Coast Safe Access is a model for what can be achieved when a business owner has a sincere desire to do right by his employees and the community where he does business,” said UFCW Local 324 President Greg Conger.
The workers announced their decision at a press conference attended by Representative Loretta Sanchez (D-Santa Ana). “It’s time for public policy that will allow safe access for medical marijuana patients while protecting our neighborhoods,” said Sanchez. “Let’s protect workers and consumers in an industry that will continue to grow and become a larger part of California’s economy and prosperity.”
“If anybody working in a cannabis dispensary anywhere in the state believes he or she will get a fraction of that without a union, they have to be smoking something a lot stronger than pot,” said Conger, describing the newly union members as a “natural fit” for Local 324’s strong history of improving lives for both retail and healthcare workers.
July 22, 2015
Workers at Stoney Brothers, a marijuana dispensary in Portland, Ore., have approved the first-ever union contract for cannabis workers in Oregon and have joined UFCW Local 555. The vote to approve the contract was unanimous and sets a new standard for cannabis workers in Oregon.
“With our new contract, I am excited to have paid holidays and vacation time,” said Kyle Maestra, a site manager at Stoney Brothers. “That is unusual in the cannabis industry.”
The three-year contract includes salaries starting at $15/hour with some making as high as $34/hour, regular raises, affordable health insurance through a multi-employer fund, pension contributions, paid vacations and sick leave, as well as seniority and grievance protections.
“All workers deserve the benefits of a union contract,” said Dan Clay, President of UFCW Local 555, “and workers in the cannabis industry are no different. Starting with the workers at Stoney Brothers, we can build a home-grown Oregon cannabis industry that respects workers and provides good, family-supporting jobs.”
Workers at Stoney Brothers have expressed excitement about their industry-leading compensation package.
“Health insurance is important to me,” said Hannah Poole, a patient consultant at Stoney Brothers. “My union health insurance plan is comprehensive and gives me real peace of mind.”
Stoney Brothers and UFCW Local 555 look forward to growing together as the company plans to open several new retail and growing facilities in the near future.
June 6, 2014
Agreement Sets New Standards, Raises Floor for Cannabis Industry Workers
Oakland,CA –Workers at Bhang Chocolate, a cannabis chocolate company in Oakland, Calif., voted overwhelmingly yesterday to ratify their first union contract, becoming members of the 33,000 member-strong United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 5, which is based in San Jose, Calif.
“We’re working towards a better future and this new contract is just the beginning,” said Beny Valencio, a chocolatier who has worked at Bhang Chocolate for more than two years.
Among other significant gains and protections for workers in the cannabis industry, the newly ratified contract provides for wage increases, employer health care contributions, paid sick leave and vacation benefits.
UFCW Local 5 members work primarily in retail grocery and meat processing with growing numbers employed in department stores, retail drug stores, candy stores, jewelry stores, agriculture and food processing, wholesale meat, seafood processing, financial services, education and the cannabis industry among others.
“This union contract means everyone at Bhang Chocolate has a voice and everyone will be heard,” said Becky Strider who has worked as a packer at Bhang Chocolate for the past four years.
In the United States and Canada, UFCW is the union for workers in the cannabis and hemp industries. UFCW members in the cannabis industry work predominantly in dispensaries, coffee shops, bakeries, patient identification centers, hydroponics stores, and growing and training facilities.
Headquartered in Oakland, Calif., Bhang Chocolate, an award-winning cannabis chocolate company, is the premier medically infused chocolate company.
UFCW Local 5 is affiliated with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents more than 1.3 million workers, primarily in the retail and meatpacking, food processing and poultry industries. Visit cannabisworkers.org or Facebook.com/CannabisWorkers to learn more about the UFCW’s effort to protect workers’ rights in the cannabis and hemp industries.
November 4, 2013
UFCW has a brand new website dedicated to the growing number of workers and UFCW members who are employed at medical marijuana dispensaries and other cannabis industry-related workplaces around the country.
Together these members are raising standards and professional stature for all marijuana and hemp workers. They are helping to build a legitimate industry that provides safe jobs for its workers.
Check out cannabisworkers.org to hear from workers in the industry, and how the union difference ensures their jobs are good, secure jobs.
Be sure to check the site for organizing resources and the latest industry updates, including how these union members are improving the lives of patients.
For more information, check out the Cannabis Workers Rising facebook page.
October 15, 2013
Local 770 dispensary workers at two medical cannabis dispensaries are celebrating the ratification of their first union contract. Workers at Greenhouse Herbal Center and LA Wonderland-Hot Zone in Los Angeles have negotiated contracts that will raise standards at their dispensaries while ensuring that the dispensaries adhere to labor laws and industry standards.
Workers view this contract as a victory not only for themselves, but also for their patients and for the future of their industry.
Beyond their workplace organizing efforts, these workers joined with Local 770 to help pass a city-wide voter initiative, Proposition D, that regulates medical cannabis dispensaries. Signing their first collective bargaining agreement is the next step in bringing dignity and order to a still volatile industry and ensuring the enforcement of basic labor laws and industry standards.
Workers also secured regular raises, paid time off and a grievance procedure. The contract language improves regulatory standards and defines respect in the workplace.
“My favorite part of the contract is having regular raises,” said Ksenia, a worker at LA Wonderland-Hot Zone. “It makes me feel more serious and secure about this job.”
The UFCW represents thousands of medical cannabis workers in six states and the District of Columbia. UFCW members in the cannabis industry work predominantly in dispensaries, coffee shops, bakeries, patient identification centers, hydroponics stores, and growing and training facilities.
February 26, 2013
UFCW members in the medical cannabis industry from Locals 5 and 770, along with medical cannabis staff from UFCW Locals 7 and 881, gathered in Washington, D.C., to share ideas with other medical cannabis activists at the first National Unity Cannabis Conference.
The conference featured medical and legal experts, elected officials, as well as seasoned advocates from the U.S. and overseas. It was an opportunity for UFCW members to discuss Labor’s role in the medical cannabis industry and how to develop strategies that protect the interests of workers as the industry continues to grow.
Today, 18 states and the District of Columbia allow legal access to medical marijuana for over one million Americans whose doctors have recommended it. In those states, UFCW members work in accordance with state laws to provide safe access to medical treatment for qualifying patients.
UFCW members ended the conference on Monday with lobby visits on Capitol Hill to educate their representatives in Congress about the impact of the conflict between state and federal medical laws on workers’ job security. They also urged the representatives to support proposed legislations HR 710 and HR 689 designed to provide for the rescheduling of medical marijuana and for an affirmative defense for the medical use of medical marijuana.
“The conference was very helpful to us,” said Jeff Jones, a UFCW Local 5 member who works at the Patient ID Center in Oakland, Calif. “UFCW members have a lot of work to do to educate Congress about the challenges that we face as workers in the medical marijuana industry.”
“Our goal is to give them the dignity that their sincerity deserves,” said Dan Rush, director of the medical cannabis and hemp division of the UFCW, in regards to workers in the medical cannabis industry. He added, as noted in a Bloomberg article, that “this is a growth industry, and people are looking for jobs.”
May 9, 2012
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) issued the following statement today in support of the Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment:
The UFCW supports the Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment. This amendment will prevent the U.S. Department of Justice from using taxpayer money to raid, arrest or prosecute medical cannabis patients and providers in the states where medical marijuana is legal.
Medical marijuana laws have been enacted to allow patients safe and legal access to appropriately produced and compliantly dispensed medical marijuana in the safest possible environment and UFCW members in the medical cannabis industry work in accordance with state laws to provide safe and effective medical treatment for persons suffering from cancer and other serious medical conditions.
At a time when millions of hardworking Americans are out of work and still struggling to make ends meet, the use of taxpayer money for the misguided targeting and prosecution of an industry that provides Americans with good middle class jobs with benefits is counterproductive. The U.S. Justice Department should not use the fewer resources it has to focus on targeting patients and dispensaries abiding by state law. That is a problem that the Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment will solve and the UFCW wholeheartedly supports it.
October 7, 2011
(Washington, D.C.) – The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the nation’s largest retail worker organization, demands an immediate end to the U.S. Attorney’s misguided prosecution of operators of small dispensaries of legal medical cannabis in California.
In the past year, thousands of hardworking and taxpaying medical cannabis industry workers have joined together with the UFCW in various states in order to protect their jobs in this emerging industry. In today’s economy, hourly wage jobs like these that pay good wages with decent benefits are vital to keeping our economy afloat and families out of poverty.
At a time when the unemployment rate hovers around 9 percent, our economy requires bold action from our government to create good family-sustaining jobs. The steps taken by the four California U.S. attorneys to send letters Wednesday and Thursday notifying at least 16 medical dispensaries and their landlords that they are violating federal drug laws would do just the opposite.
“I have a good middle class American Job with good health benefits and a pension that I can look forward to,” said Larry Richards, a UFCW Local 5 member and a manager at the Blue Sky Dispensary in Oakland, California. “Because of our industry and our union I am able to be a productive breadwinner and, as a person living with HIV since 1983, I have fought and struggled not to be a drain on society. I want to work, I want to be productive but now, they want to take my job and put me back on the rolls of Social Security.”
UFCW proudly stands with our members in the Humboldt Growers Association, the Citizens for Safer Neighborhoods Committee of Colorado, the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, and our coalition partners in MendoGrown, the Patients Care Alliance, the National Cannabis Industry Association, and the Citizens Coalition for Patient Care.
Medical cannabis is a safe and effective treatment option for many serious medical conditions including cancer, and patients should not be forced to purchase their medicine from criminals, drug dealers, and thugs. If the federal government closes commercial dispensaries and collectives in California, patients will have no safe access to their medication. In addition, thousands of workers will be forced from their jobs in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
UFCW and our members are dedicated to a dignified, controlled, taxed, regulated, compliant, unionized medical cannabis industry. We stand in solidarity with the workers and patients of the unionized medical cannabis industry.