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Why Cannabis Workers Are Unionizing Across the Country

Employees want to secure their future in the industry.

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In an effort to lend even more legitimacy to the cannabis industry, its workers are unionizing more and more in legalized states. And the pandemic, like just about everything else, has a lot to do with it.

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According to Vice’s Motherboard, there are now more than 10,000 cannabis workers represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, which has been organizing in the marijuana space for more than a decade. 

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Workers uniting

With recreational marijuana legalized in 19 states (and growing), cannabis sales rose in 2020 and again in 2021. But that increase in profits for corporate brands and retail stores did not always trickle down to workers. Now employees from cannabis retail to cultivation are organizing to secure workplace contracts, especially in states like California, Illinois, and Massachusetts. 

“We’re seeing a big momentum in cannabis workers locally and across the country,” Sam Marvin, organizing director at United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 328, which helped workers organize in Massachusetts, told Filter magazine. “Workers across the industry are coming together and securing an equitable future in a growing industry.”

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Getting the word out

Union recruitment efforts are making inroads in the industry, as many employees don’t even know it’s an option. Staying in an industry they believe in, especially at the growth stage, is important. But there are still growing pains, from social inequities to pay fluctuations. Once they hear about options that being in a union can supply, many are jumping on board to protect regular work schedules, setting wage floors, and adding an extra layer of job security.

Labor Peace Agreements (LPAs) are also helping. These policies, which make it so employers won’t interfere with unionizing efforts, and workers won’t strike, are being written into new marijunana legislation. New York’s recent laws, for instance, included an LPA. 

“The steps cannabis workers are taking together now by organizing will help determine how this industry looks years down the road,” Marvin told Motherboard. “These foundational agreements will help pave the way forward for a stable and equitable future for cannabis workers.”