Labor Relations in the Cannabis Industry

Unsurprisingly, union organizing in the cannabis industry is accelerating. Numerous states have passed cannabis laws legalizing the sale of THC products with restrictions, and the federal government legalized the sale of CBD products from industrial hemp (cannabis). As a result, there is a growing cannabis industry selling products requiring activities from seed to sale. Currently, at $30 billion, New Frontier Data projects cannabis sales could reach $71 billion by 2030.  

The Art of Labor Relations CTA

Labor Unions Recruiting New Members in Cannabis Industry 

Leafly’s 2022 annual jobs report says the cannabis industry supported 428,059 full-time equivalent jobs. If the federal government legalizes marijuana, the jobs number could grow to 1.75 million. The labor unions are noticing.   

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union developed the Cannabis Workers Rising campaign for the Cannabis Workers’ Union. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters has the Keep on Rollin’ Campaign, described as a grassroots movement of workers committed to ensuring employers share the industry’s prosperity. The UFCW and Teamsters unions are organizing on familiar concepts across industries. They include regular pay raises, improved benefits, regular schedules, tips and discounts, employee voice, community equity and accountability, and dignity and respect.  

The labor unions represent tens of thousands of cannabis workers in marijuana dispensaries, product development and testing laboratories, delivery services, kitchens, manufacturing and processing facilities, and grow facilities.   

Cannabis agricultural workers, like all other agricultural workers, are not protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) should they unionize. However, the field workers can form an independent union or alt-union. In California, they can organize under the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act. Some cannabis is cultivated in greenhouses, and cultivators can join unions with NLRA protections. 

Union Organizing Successes Expected to Grow 

The cannabis units of the labor unions are having success. Following is a sample of coast-to-coast union organizing in the cannabis industry. 

  • Chicago, IL - Modern Cannabis dispensary joined Teamsters Local 777 in 2021 
  • In 2021, cannabis retail workers won 18 out of 26 union elections 
  • Phoenix, AZ - Curaleaf Dispensary voted to join the UFCW Local 99 in July 2022 
  • Teamsters Local 1932 has 14,000 cannabis workers in Southern California’s Inland Empire region in 2022 
  • Santa Rosa, CA – Flora Terra workers join Teamsters Local 665 
  • UFCW Local 1445 represents cannabis workers in Massachusetts at Sira Naturals, Liberty, Cultivate, NETA, and Mayflower Medicinals 
  • South Beloit and Schaumburg, IL– Workers at two Cresco Labs joined Teamsters Local 777 in 2022 
  • Secaucus, NJ – Harmony Foundation store workers joined UFCW Local 360 in 2022 

Six states have passed labor peace agreement (LPA) laws applicable to the cannabis industry. The LPA is required in four states and encouraged in two. It’s a contract between an employer and a union in which the employer agrees to be neutral during a union organizing campaign and not interfere. The union agrees not to engage in economic interference like work stoppages, picketing, and boycotting. When required by law, an employer can only get a license to operate by showing proof that an LPA exists. 

Though the LPA does not automatically lead to unionization, it changes the dynamics of the union organizing campaign.   

Importance of Labor Relations in the Cannabis Industry  

To avoid unionization in the cannabis industry, train your leaders on labor relations, including: 

  • Avoiding an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge 
  • TIPS and FOE Rules 
  • What constitutes protected concerted activity  
  • Actions considered interfering with employee NLRA rights, like conducting surveillance, punishing or firing employees involved in unionizing, threatening facility closure, etc. 

It’s also important to develop leaders on allowed labor relations activities, like talking to employees about the advantages of working for the employer, the impacts of joining a union, such as union dues, and the fact that employees aren’t guaranteed what unions promise.

Whether your industry be cannabis, retail, healthcare, or any other type of organization, IRI Consultants is here to help you maintain positive employee relations and build strong relationships with your employees. Contact our team of experts today to discuss solutions unique to your organization.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email