Marijuana workers in California, Illinois, New Jersey vote to unionize

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Labor unions organizing marijuana workers notched recent victories in three states, including with cultivators who don’t enjoy the same federal protections extended to cannabis retail workers.

In Northern California, cultivation and post-harvest workers at Santa Rosa-based Flora Terra voted to join Teamsters Local 665, according to a news release.

Exact figures are unclear, but as a labor-intensive agricultural product, cannabis relies on employees who are classified as agricultural workers.

That means they are not covered under the National Labor Relations Act.

In California, such workers are organized under a state law – pushed by late labor organizer Cesar Chavez – called the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act.

Negotiations with Flora Terra, which deals in clones and genetics as well as a retail dispensary, on a union contract will follow, the Local 665 said in a statement.

The Teamsters also signed up retail workers at Cresco Labs’ Sunnyside affiliate in South Beloit, Illinois.

According to the union, 93% of the Sunnyside workers in South Beloit voted in favor of joining Teamsters Local 777.

They join workers at the company’s Schaumburg, Illinois, location who voted to unionize in September.

In New Jersey, workers at the Harmony Foundation’ store in Secaucus voted to join the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 360, according to a release.

In addition to Harmony, the UFCW has organized workers at major multistate operators Green Thumb Industries (doing business in New Jersey as Rise), Acreage Holdings’ Botanist brand, Ayr Wellness, Curaleaf Holdings and Verano Holdings, according to UFCW organizer Hugh Giordano.

He estimated that 2,500 cannabis workers in New Jersey are union members.

“And we expect more, because all of these companies are going to be expanding,” he told MJBizDaily, noting that contract negotiations – the second and arguably more important step that follows a vote – are ongoing with the big firms, and are so far “positive.”

“For a lot of these companies, it’s the first time they’re dealing with a union, so it’s a learning process,” Giordano said.

“But I think we’re at a good point where these companies know we’re bargaining in good faith.”

The UFCW counts about 10,000 organized workers nationwide, with half of those in California, UFCW Local 5 organizer Jim Araby told MJBizDaily.

The Teamsters count about 500, according to spokesperson Matt McQuaid.

Chris Roberts can be reached at chris.roberts@mjbizdaily.com.