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More Illinois Cannabis Workers Join Local 881

March 16, 2022

On Feb. 10, workers at the Zen Leaf medical cannabis dispensary in Highland Park, Ill., joined UFCW Local 881 for a better life.

An overwhelming majority of the 26 workers at the Zen Leaf dispensary, which is owned by Verano Holdings, voted to join our union family because they wanted to improve their working conditions. These new members of UFCW Local 881 are looking forward to negotiating their first union contract with the goal of gaining better wages, affordable benefits, and a safer workplace, especially COVID-19 protocols and better contact tracing and communication from management when workers test positive for the virus. They also hope to gain a voice at the table to create clear policies and procedures to address workplace issues, including a grievance procedure, with the goal of improving respect in the workplace.

“We’re elated and excited to move forward as the first Zen Leaf in Illinois to unionize! The work that frontline cannabis workers do is incredibly undervalued,” said Akemi Almeida, who is Zen Leaf Highland Park agent in charge. “This isn’t just an entry-level hospitality gig; we are working closely with people’s mental health and debilitating medical conditions. We love our patients and our jobs – we also know there is a significant misdistribution of wealth in the cannabis industry that needs to be addressed. We are happy to reclaim our voice, inspire others, and begin to set a new standard for the cannabis industry.”

“We believe workers deserve so much better than the horrible gig model big cannabis companies offer,” said UFCW Local 881 President Steve Powell. “Cannabis companies are raking in profits on the backs of their dedicated and knowledgeable frontline workers. We look forward to helping the workers of Zen Leaf Highland Park raise their voices to create a better future for themselves in cannabis by negotiating real workplace change and security through a Local 881 union contract.”

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