Work stoppage at Chicago-area Rise cannabis stores ends after 13 days

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Image of workers striking outside a Rise Dispensary

Employees strike outside a Rise Dispensary in Niles, Illinois, during a 13-day work stoppage. (Photo by Kathleen McMahon)

A 13-day strike at three Chicago-area Rise adult-use cannabis stores that began April 19 came to an end Tuesday after parent company Green Thumb Industries offered unionized retail workers a significant wage increase, union officials said.

The nearly two-week work stoppage by retail workers, organized with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 777, is believed to be the longest strike at a marijuana retailer in U.S. history.

As incentive to return to work, Green Thumb offered striking workers wage increases of up to 50%, according to the Teamsters, who vowed to push to make those raises permanent.

About 100 workers at the three dispensaries participated in the work stoppage, according to the union.

Contract negotiations between the company and the union fell apart about two weeks ago.

A spokesperson for Chicago-based Green Thumb, one of the country’s largest multistate operators, did not immediately respond to an MJBizDaily request for comment.

Union officials and Rise workers celebrated what they consider a major victory – and a possible sign of increased labor militancy in the cannabis industry.

Illinois recorded $1.5 billion in cannabis sales in 2022, according to state figures, but workers say economic benefits rarely trickle down to front-line workers, who are often paid wages consistent with low-level retail jobs such as those at Target or Walmart.

“This is just the beginning,” Teamsters Local 777 President Jim Glimco said in a statement.

“We’re showing the whole industry that if you don’t play by the rules, we will pull your card.”

Workers at the Rise stores in Joliet and nearby Niles voted to join the union last year.

Negotiations on a contract began in June 2022 but broke down two weeks ago over an alleged violation of federal labor law.

The strike began at 4:20 p.m. on April 19 – the day before the 4/20 marijuana celebration and one of the busiest shopping days on a cannabis retailer’s calendar – after company officials told union members to remove pro-union buttons that featured a picture of a joint, workers told MJBizDaily last week.

That led the union to filing a federal Unfair Labor Practices (ULP) complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging illegal union-busting tactics.

That complaint was still pending as of this week.

Workers at the Rise locations start at $16.50 an hour and were pushing for higher starting pay and raises as well as company contributions to retirement, said Reilly Drew, a patient-care specialist.

Other marijuana chains, including nearby Ascend Wellness Holdings, which is also organized under the Teamsters, start at $19.50 an hour, workers said.

The three Rise dispensaries stayed open during the strike, with high-level corporate employees seen working the bud counter and checking IDs, workers told MJBizDaily.

The union claimed Green Thumb committed other labor-law violations during the strike, including offering promotions to anyone who crossed the picket line and “surveillance” of the picket lines.

The strike drew attention from prominent elected officials, including Democratic U.S. Rep. Nikki Budzinski, who represents the area.

Chris Roberts can be reached at