Curaleaf marijuana store workers in Arizona plan 4/20 protest

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(This story has been updated to clarify the timing of the filing and adjudication of the union’s NLRB complaint.) 

A protest is expected to greet customers visiting Curaleaf Holdings’ marijuana store on Camelback Road in Phoenix on Saturday – the 4/20 unofficial cannabis holiday and one of the busiest days of the year for retailers.

That’s because the New York-based multistate operator canceled a planned employee raise after federal labor regulators in February ordered Curaleaf to begin long-delayed contract negotiations, according to a Wednesday news release from the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 99.

The demonstration is planned from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Curaleaf store at 1040 Camelback Road in Phoenix.

In a Thursday statement to MJBizDaily, a Curaleaf spokesperson denied the union’s allegations and said the store would work to “minimize the impact this will have on customers and patients.”

NLRB involved

Employees at Curaleaf’s Camelback and Midtown marijuana stores in Phoenix voted to join the UFCW in summer 2022 but so far have been unable to negotiate a contract with management, the union said.

That’s in part because Curaleaf refused to recognize the union and to negotiate, the UFCW said in a complaint submitted last October to the National Labor Relations Board.

The NLRB subsequently ruled in the union’s favor in February, ordering Curaleaf to post a notice admitting it violated federal labor law at the workplace and to begin negotiations.

However, on March 8, the company appealed the NLRB ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, according to labor board filings.

Curaleaf then canceled a planned wage increase on the basis that union “bargaining is preventing” the company “from providing raises,” according to a letter that union organizer Martin Hernandez wrote in an April 9 letter addressed to Curaleaf.

“As you know, Curaleaf is, in fact, required to continue its practice with respect to raises that was in place before employees voted for union representation,” Hernandez’s letter continued.

“If you do not raise wages now, it is not because the Union is preventing you from doing so.”

Curaleaf said in its statement to MJBizDaily that the company “understands that the UFCW Local 99 and some Curaleaf team members have chosen to exercise their right to express their views.”

“We are committed to fostering a positive relationship with union leaders and Curaleaf team members, and the company respects the voices of our Arizona team members and their right to peacefully convene,” Curaleaf’s statement continued.

“We know that our business, our patients and customers depend on a positive work environment, and we are focused on creating a collaborative culture that allows our team to feel heard, supported and respected.”

The company’s appeal is ongoing.

Labor actions in cannabis

The Arizona action follows a breakthrough in labor negotiations on Tuesday between unionized delivery employees and Eaze Technologies management in California.

It’s also the most recent example of union militancy.

Last year, a 13-day strike timed with the 4/20 retail event at Green Thumb Industries-operated Rise marijuana stores in the Chicago area – the longest work stoppage in U.S. marijuana history – prompted wage increases.

Chris Roberts can be reached at