Workers at this Insa dispensary in Salem, MA, are attempting to join UFCW Local 1445. Credit: JJ Welch

A few dozen workers at two different cannabis dispensaries filed petitions for union representation with the National Labor Relations Board last week.

“We’ve had an in-house committee of workers at those dispensaries that have been talking about improving their work conditions,” said Gabe Camacho, political director for United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1445. “The very issue of having union representation at the shop floor is extremely important. Equally important are wages, benefits and other economic items.”

The two petitions officially start the clock on an election. The petitions also reflect that at least 30% of the business’s workforce had signed cards from the union seeking representation. Massachusetts state law also allows workers to skip a union election if they are able to collect signed union cards from more than half of the staff that are eligible for membership.

“The golden rule is managers cannot be part of a union,” said Camacho. “Those who have the right to hire and fire and those who work in Human Resources that have access to employees’ private information cannot be part of the union.”

Local 1445 filed a petition for union representation on Jan. 18 on behalf of the employees of INSA in the company’s Salem, Massachusetts adult-use retail outlet. INSA owns three additional dispensaries, separate medical and recreational storefronts in Springfield, Massachusetts, with a third in Easthampton that offers both medical and recreational.

The same union filed an additional petition the following day, on behalf of workers at Sanctuary Medicinals in Gardner, which is in central Massachusetts, close to the state’s northern border with New Hampshire. The company also operates a medical dispensary in Danvers, as well as a recreational shop in Brookline.

Each dispensary has about 20 workers organizing, according to Camacho. In both cases, their concerns include working conditions and safety conditions, especially amid the ongoing pandemic.

“Covid-19 is still very much a problem with retail,” said Camacho.

The workers are also seeking non-discrimination clauses in their contracts and benefits to promote upward mobility among the employees.

In both cases the union elections will likely be conducted through mail-in ballot in the next month, according to a congratulatory video Local 1445 sent to the workers of Sanctuary.

Spokespeople from both INSA and Sanctuary Medicinals did not respond to requests for comment.

UFCW has led  most of the cannabis worker organizing in the state. Employees of Solar Therapeutics in Somerset voted to join that union’s Local 328 last October. Temescal Wellness employees filed their own petition for representation that same month, with Local 1445.

“Our organizing in the cannabis industry has been quite robust and we’re quite proud of that,” said Camacho.

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Zack cut his journalistic teeth covering high school sports in the south before spending a decade covering local government, politics and the courts in the Boston, Massachusetts area. He's previously written...