Just a few days ago we wrote about Massachusetts’ cannabis business growth, and now, Massachusetts cannabis company Sira Naturals announced that all of its employees would join the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW). Sira Naturals is the first cannabusiness in Massachusetts to unionize its workers, signaling change is on the horizon for the burgeoning cannabis industry.
All 115 of Sira Naturals’ employees will join the union, which aims to promote relationships between management, employees, and union officials. What’s interesting is that it wasn’t the employees’ idea: Sira Naturals encouraged employees to join the union, and that’s not uncommon in the cannabis industry.
Although many employers wouldn’t be thrilled with a unionized labor force, the Sira Naturals decision falls in line with what cannabis enterprises are doing across the US, both in recreational and medical states.
The UFCW is the largest and most reputable union for cannabis workers. Its membership is 10,000 strong in 14 states. UFCW holds large contracts with providers like MedMen and has been fighting not only for employee rights but also for legalization efforts across the US.
UFCW also represents fast-food workers, but it started advocating for cannabis workers in 2007 in California. Medical cannabis has been legal there since the 1970s, but because it was produced by small operations, work conditions were iffy. Dangerous conditions, pay violations, and harassment was common before UFCW’s efforts. Thanks to its lobbying with state officials, union membership is now a requirement for cannabis licensing in many states.
In fact, California just did that. In early October, the state signed a bill that requires labor peace agreements for cannabis companies with more than 20 employees. These labor peace agreements mean business owners can’t discourage or fire workers for belonging to a union and must give employees’ contact information to the union.
In exchange, the union promises not to say negative things about the employer or encourage employees to strike. On top of that, the unions also help employees monitor work conditions and advocate for salary increases.
As cannabis prohibition ends in more states, efforts are being made to legitimize the cannabis industry in mainstream culture. By encouraging employees to join a union, cannabis operators not only have happier employees, but they get more authority for their business in the process.
As of writing, only 2 states require union membership. But as legalization creates more jobs, businesses will need to balance the demands of the market with employee needs. Hopefully, unionization during the Green Rush will improve the lives of employees while helping the public and lawmakers accept cannabis.
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