Cannabis labor organizing efforts underway in Illinois, Michigan

An effort to organize labor representation for Cresco Lab’s Lincoln, Illinois cultivation facility has flared up, as the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 881 (UFCW), charges Cresco with attempting to drag out the election process while intimidating workers. Cresco denies the allegations.

The organization effort for about 45 workers in Lincoln is one of three votes UFCW has prompted at Cresco facilities. Earlier this year UFCW won representation votes at Cresco’s Joliet cultivation site and at the Sunnyside Lakeview Dispensary on Chicago’s North Side. The Lincoln effort began with UFCW filing for a representation vote with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in August, and was originally set for an in-person vote by employees on September 30. 

Covid infection concerns prompted the NLRB to change the vote to a mail-in vote on November 17. However, Cresco moved to change the vote back to in-person, delaying the vote date and sending it back to the NRLB for a ruling with no certain date of determination. Since then, UFCW representatives say, Cresco has been putting pressure on employees through changes to work practices.

“They are moving people to different departments, cutting hours, doing all sorts of changes that will disrupt or intimidate workers from voting how they would want,” said Mo Zavala, UFCW’s organizing director. “If there was a specific date, where the [NLRB] said we’ll let you know by a certain date, that would make it easier, but unfortunately we don’t know, and that’s what Cresco is playing with.”

“We deny any allegations that we are intentionally delaying this election as our workers have the same concerns over mail in ballots that people all across our country do and we support their right to have an in person secret ballot election monitored by the NLRB. We have not rolled out any benefits in response to union activity. As Cresco continues to grow and mature as a leading cannabis company, we are proud to be able to offer enhanced paid time off and other benefits to our 1,800-plus employees across the entire country,” said Jason Erkes, Cresco Labs spokesperson.

Meanwhile, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, another UFCW local, 876, has begun the process of organizing an Om of Medicine dispensary, owned by 4Front Ventures, according to NLRB records, with a representation vote set for November 17. The labor union did not respond to requests for comment by publication.