Labor unions are organized associations of workers, often in a specific trade or profession, formed to protect and further their rights. They are active in many parts of the country. They also extend to various trades and markets. In 2019, the percentage of wage and salary workers who were members of unions was 10.3%. Many Americans have strong opinions regarding unions, whether it’s in favor or against. The cannabis market is no exception to unions. People on both sides of the topic are equally passionate about cannabis workers’ unions. It seems that many cannabis workers are unionizing in 2021, with the help of standing union organizations.
As of recent, there’s been an increase in jobs in the cannabis market. There are cannabis unions that aim to create more jobs and protect cannabis workers. This upward trend could change the landscape of the cannabis market.
What does that mean for the future of cannabis workers, specifically those working in California?
The Purpose of Cannabis Workers Unionizing
Originally, labor unions were created as a way to protect the working class from labor abuse. Such abuses include extremely long hours, unsafe working conditions, or unfair pay. Due to the expanding nature of the cannabis industry, it’s no surprise that labor unions are discussed.
With a projected growth of up to $70.6 billion globally by 2028, cannabis worker unions provide a way to organize members. Additionally, it ensures employment is conducted in a legal manner. Like in any other industry, these unions offer access to group health insurance, provide legal compliance and other legal assistance.
A strong force in the world of unions is the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union. It was founded in June 1979. Since then, it has worked to help organize workers and secure their rights. The UFCW has organized cannabis workers across the U.S. since 2011. These have been cannabis workers from growing and training facilities, dispensaries, bakeries, patient identification centers, and hydroponics stores.
Another prominent union is the United Cannabis Workers (UWC). The UWC is a union composed mostly of independent workers, self-employed workers, businesses, and business owners. This union organization created the very first National Cannabis Workers Pension fund. Additionally, they offer typical benefits and resources found in other unions to those working in the cannabis industry.
Pros & Cons of Cannabis Workers Unionizing
As previously mentioned, this can be a very polarizing topic for some people. There are those who are strongly in favor of labor unions. On the other hand, you have those who strongly dislike labor unions. Let’s look at this from an objective point-of-view, and analyze the pros and cons of cannabis workers unionizing in 2021.
- Unions have a long history of mediating better wages and benefits, safe working conditions, and access to resources
- Assistance with job security and longevity, especially important during a pandemic
- Unionization is a true sign a cannabis company is a legitmate business
- Discrimination can exist within the organization
- Union vs. Nonunion employees can be divided
- Payment is often required to be a part of a union
California Cannabis Workers Unionizing in 2021
Cannabis workers in California are also joining in on the unionizing movement. In fact, in early June, cannabis agricultural workers at Tikun Olam have joined the Teamsters Local 1932. This marijuana cultivation facility is located in Adelanto, California.
According to the news release, 39 employees at the grow operation are now a part of Teamsters Local 1932 in San Bernadino. The union organization currently has roughly 14,000 members. According to the news release from Teamster, these results are “the first Agricultural Labor Relations Board election victory for cannabis workers in Southern California.”
“We are anticipating a strong future after joining Local 1932,” says Doug Herring and Kurt Newman, two of the new Teamsters at Tikun Olam. “Together, cannabis workers will carve the future for this industry that we are all so proud to be a part of.”
Similarly, the United Food and Commercial Workers union has been organizing marijuana industry workers for years. This is not limited to California. Their efforts have been placed across the United States. Even then, last year they managed to ratify a union contract with cannabis workers at San Fransico’s Stiiizy-Mission dispensary. The press release announcing this news also notes that the contract was ratified following 3 months of negotiations.
Those details include salary increases that average $3 per hour over the duration of the contract, a pathway to full-time work, employer-provided health insurance, and an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan.