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NEW REPORT: Cannabis Workers Unionizing Leads to Higher Quality Jobs and Increases Standards in Fast-Growing Industry

September 20, 2021

UFCW Cannabis worker

Cannabis Workers of Color Earn Up to 32 Percent More, Highlighting an Opportunity to Advance Economic Justice with Unions in this Growing Industry

America’s Largest Cannabis Union Calls on State and Federal Legislators to Ensure More Quality Jobs by Encouraging Union Organizing and Industry Cooperation with Labor Peace Agreements as Legalization Continues 

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), called on federal and state legislators to build on the success of the cannabis industry in creating high quality, better paying jobs for hardworking Americans. A new report released today by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that unionization was key to ensuring new jobs created in the fast-growing cannabis industry were safer, better paying, and more likely to provide benefits like health care, paid leave, and fair scheduling. 

The report also found that Labor Peace Agreements (LPAs) between companies and workers in the industry successfully protected the right of cannabis workers to unionize while supporting greater alignment between companies and workers. This led to increased job quality and pay standards for all workers, particularly those of color, in addition to increased safety for customers and workers. Specifically, unionized cannabis workers can earn up to $8,690 more than their non-union, non-cannabis peers. This model provides a tangible opportunity to repair the harm done to communities of color during the war on drugs. 

Statement from UFCW Legislative and Political Director & International Vice President, Ademola Oyefeso

“America’s cannabis workers proudly serve their communities every day. They have earned and deserve the quality jobs the industry they helped build has created.

“Today’s report makes clear that high-quality cannabis jobs have made this industry good for hardworking families and has expanded economic opportunity to communities of color who were hurt by outdated state and federal policies. Labor Peace Agreements bring cannabis businesses and unions together as partners. They are a proven formula for success, increasing pay, providing benefits and protections for workers in the industry. 

“As America’s largest cannabis workers union, the UFCW urges all states, as they consider new cannabis policy, to include worker standards. Doing so will ensure that the thousands of hardworking people and families affect by failed policies benefit from legalization in the form of quality, sustainable jobs.”

Policy discussions around equity in the emerging cannabis industry have focused on investment and entrepreneurial opportunities in business licensing, with very little attention being paid to equity in cannabis industry jobs. Existing unionized cannabis businesses in states with legal cannabis provide examples of how formalizing workers’ rights and participation in company decision-making has led to both business success and more remunerative jobs for those in the industry. 

As Congress considers the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act discussion draft introduced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senators Cory Booker (New Jersey) and Ron Wyden (Oregon), the UFCW is urging lawmakers to recognize the importance of strengthening protections and the right to unionize for all workers in the fast-growing cannabis industry which already supports 321,000 American jobs nationwide.

Key findings from today’s EPI report on cannabis workers include:

  • Labor peace agreements (LPAs) have proven successful in protecting workers’ rights to organize in the six states (California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Illinois and Virginia) with statutes encouraging or requiring LPAs for licensed medical and/or recreational cannabis businesses. LPAs prevent union busting by employers in exchange for workers’ pledge not to strike.
  • Cannabis workers across job sectors can make more than their non-union counterparts in similar jobs.
    • Retail: $2,810 more in annual wages
    • Processing: $8,690 more in annual wages
    • Cultivation: $7,030 more in annual wages.
  • And cannabis workers of color earn up to 32 percent more from unionization than non-union cannabis workers of color. 
  • The cannabis industry supports jobs across multiple sectors. Protecting the quality of these jobs improves employment opportunities for American workers of a wide variety of skill and education levels. Cannabis occupations include:
    • Retail Sector: patient care coordinator clerk, customer service representative, and security guard.
    • Processing Sector: extraction, lab and production technicians, edible specialists, packagers, and inventory control. 
    • Cultivation Sector: horticulturalist, grower, and trimmer/post-harvester 
  • Acting early in the legalization process will safeguard cannabis workers’ right to unionize and would counteract wage declines that threaten workers as the industry becomes less stigmatized.

BACKGROUND:

The UFCW is America’s largest cannabis workers union, with over 10,000 cannabis members nationwide. The UFCW has played a leading role in advancing state legislation with Labor Peace Agreements, helping to create high-quality better paying cannabis jobs. 

Cannabis workers have successfully unionized and joined UFCW from a wide range of companies across the industry, including at Union Harvest and Nature’s Root Labs in Colorado, Windy City Cannabis in Illinois, Sira Naturals in Massachusetts, Perfect Union in California, Greenleaf in Rhode Island, Sunnyside (Cresco Labs) in New York, Garden State Dispensary in New Jersey, Vireo Health in Maryland, and DC Holistic Wellness in Washington, D.C.

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UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States. UFCW International represents 1.3 million professionals and their families in healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at ufcw.org.