.Green Thumb Industries’ RISE dispensary in Niles, Ill

Wage and labor disputes continue to roil cannabis facilities, leading to a rolling series of unionizations across the Midwest. Newly unionized workers say they want to balance their love of the industry with fair compensation.

Last Friday, eight workers at Green Thumb Industries’ RISE dispensary in Niles, Ill. voted to organize with Teamsters Local 777 and earlier this month workers at Heritage Provisioning in Battle Creek, Mich. joined United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 951.

The Niles RISE dispensary workers are among dozens of others who joined Local 777 in the past year, including dispensaries with Columbia Care’s Zen Leaf, PharmaCann’s Veralife, and Revolution Global’s Enlightened.

“These workers stood together to form a union because they have legitimate concerns that they want resolved,” Local 777 President Jim Glimco said. “They want a union that stands up for them and raises the standards of the industry as a whole.”

Glimco said that the workers opted to join the union to get better wages, benefits, and job security. He said that since the cannabis industry is so new, there are protections and rights that workers are not aware of that they can help themselves with. 

Reilly Drew, a worker at the Niles RISE location, said that they love the work they do and hope that they are compensated fairly going forward.

“We are standing together to demand respect, integrity and equity,” Drew said in a statement. “We want to have our voices heard and see the cannabis industry in better alignment with our values – rooted in equity and wellness.”

Workers at Heritage Provisioning, a Battle Creek retail cannabis facility, became the first such group to authorize union representation in West Michigan. Last month, workers at Left Coast Holdings’ Manistee, Mich. dispensary joined UFCW Local 876 after owners voluntarily recognized the union as a bargaining unit.

“I’m excited and hopeful this will serve as a pathway to expanding union coverage to include more workers in the cannabis industry,” John Cakmakci, UFCW 951 president, said.

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Trey Arline is Grown In’s Midwest Reporter. He was most recently with the Daily Herald, but has also reported for Vegas PBS, The Nevada Independent, and the Associated Press.