Downtown Kansas City, Missouri in 2010. Credit: ctj71081 / Flickr

Taking a cue from successful unionization efforts across the Mississippi River, Missouri labor organizers are working towards union elections. 

“We have organizers on the ground. We are probing locations and having conversations with workers. There’s definitely an interest to see if there’s an interest among the workers and there definitely is some and that’s what we’re working on,” said Collin Reischman, spokesman for Local 655 of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).

Missouri has 179 operating dispensaries and 40 operating cultivation sites. Dispensaries typically have an average of 20 workers, while cultivation sites can have anywhere from 20 to 100 workers, depending on the size. By the math, Missouri has around 5,000 workers directly working in plant-touching facilities, a rich, new target for union organizers.

Reischman said his union, which is so far the only group organizing in Missouri, has spoken with workers at multiple locations with an interest in organizing.

“We are in the process of finding out which of those locations we think have strong support. In those locations where there is support, we’re going to start the process of getting people to sign the cards,” Reischman said.

Workers have reached out to UFCW and vice versa, Reischman said.

Marne Madison, executive director of Exit Now, a group of social justice leaders and criminal justice advocates in St. Louis, says worker circumstances in Missouri are ripe for union organization.

“There have been students that I have classes with that..have stated how horrible those working conditions are,” said Madison. “I am aware of a few budtenders and cultivators in Missouri that are starting to come together for those discussions.”

The interest in cannabis industry unionization is pretty much the same as in other industries, said Reischman.“Cannabis workers take their work seriously and I think there may be a perception from some people in the general public that it’s not a like a real career or a real job,” said Reischman. “For us it’s very serious. If we’re working in medical cannabis, we have patients we care about.”

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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.