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Cannabis Workers in Illinois Ratify First Union Contract

March 11, 2022

Members of UFCW Local 881 who work at the Sunnyside cannabis dispensary in Champaign, Ill., recently ratified a first union contract that raises wages and improves benefits. Sunnyside is owned and operated by Cresco, a national cannabis company.

The 22 Sunnyside workers joined UFCW Local 881 last June because they were concerned about low wages, inadequate benefits, unpredictable scheduling, and the lack of proper training. After months of negotiations, the three-year contract addresses many of those issues, and includes annual wage increases and a ratification bonus. The contract also includes a guaranteed paid time off schedule with Wellness Days added, as well as an employee product discount, and a robust grievance procedure to dispute discipline.

“It feels great to finally have a contract! Unionizing has been a long process, but it absolutely paid off,” said Sarah Holder, who is a Sunnyside wellness advisor. “We now have a contract that was drafted with the help of employee representatives, and the staff at Sunnyside Champaign were able to make their voices heard by voting ‘yes.’ The fact that we helped set the terms of our employment really brings a sense of ownership and job security that was previously missing. It feels amazing knowing that Local 881 is on our side!”

“There’s no doubt in my mind that dispensary workers are more passionate about the cannabis plant than anyone that works in the corporate office,” said Ramy Akram-Ahmed, who is also a Sunnyside wellness advisor. “Some of us have been handling and learning about this plant for longer than Cresco has been a company. We are the ones with the cannabis knowledge and the know-how. We are bringing the customers back every week, not company sales or ads. We are a huge part of this industry, and we deserve representation and to be treated fairly.”

“Working with Local 881 has helped us to learn about what’s possible and about what we deserve,” Akram-Ahmed added. “We now have representation that has our best interests in mind. After months and months of negotiations, it’s exciting that all the hard work that went into this contract has come to fruition. I hope that along with improving the conditions at our store, this contract also benefits the entire industry and many other cannabis workers.”

“More and more cannabis workers are learning the hard truth that cannabis corporations will choose profit over their people every time,” said UFCW Local 881 President Steven Powell. “At the same time, they are also realizing that the secure path to a real cannabis career is not through empty employer promises, but rather by standing up as a united group of workers with a strong union on your side. Local 881 is thrilled to welcome the Sunnyside Champaign dispensary workers into our union family and we consider it a great privilege to be their representatives. We look forward to holding their employer accountable and enforcing their contract.”

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