Curaleaf’s Skokie, Illinois dispensary. Credit: hausvoneris / Instagram

Citing a list of workplace grievances, Curaleaf dispensary workers in Skokie voted overwhelmingly to join Local 881 of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), continuing a growing trend of cannabis industry unionizing in Illinois.

Curaleaf’s Skokie dispensary workers voted 27-5 to join UFCW Local 881, according to a union news release. 

“It’s the everyday working conditions and going to work and finding things not working,” Ramirez-Gonzalez director of organizing for Local 881 told Grown In on Tuesday. “Not only that, but the company also just continues to make money and not worrying about the employees.”

Worker grievances ranged from toilets that don’t flush, inconsistent work hours, lack of benefits and job security, and what organizers called a “Hunger Games” approach to promotions and raises, with indiscriminate manager favoritism.

A written response provided to Grown In from Curaleaf was neutral in tone. “While we believe that a direct relationship with our team members is the best route for us to work together, we respect the voices of our Skokie team members and will negotiate with UFCW in good faith. We know our business and our patients and customers depend on a positive work environment, and we are committed to a collaborative culture that allows our team to feel heard, supported and respected.”

Curaleaf, one of the largest multistate operators, with over 100 dispensaries across the country, owns 10 dispensaries in Illinois, the maximum allowed by state law.

The Skokie location is the third Curaleaf dispensary to join Local 881 in just a few short weeks. Dispensary workers from Curaleaf locations in Mokena and Worth also voted to join Local 881.

Now that the vote has been decided for Skokie, Local 881 is preparing for three different Curleaf negotiations, including the Mokena and Worth locations.

“For Curaleaf workers in Worth and Mokena, we have sent those requests for meetings and have not gotten a meeting date yet,” said Maggie Vis, director of communications for UFCW Local 881. “For Skokie, there’s a seven-day waiting period before you can start planning these negotiations after the election. For Skokie, we have not started those negation meetings and planning because Thanksgiving Day is the seventh day of the objection period. They’re supposed to bargain in good faith.”

The road to reaching a contract can be a long process, Vis said.

Local 881 is the first and only union to negotiate cannabis contracts in Illinois with Cresco Labs’ cultivation site in Joliet and with the company’s Sunnyside Dispensary in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood.Cannabis workers in Missouri’s medical marijuana industry are also looking to organize, according to a St. Louis Post Dispatch news story that reported multiple campaigns are underway among Missouri cannabis workers.

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Brad Spirrison is a journalist, serial entrepreneur and media ecologist. He lives in Chicago with his son. Interests include music, meditation and Miles Davis.