Workers at the Zen Leaf in Germantown, Md. participate in a plastics collection drive in 2021. Credit: thehigh5initiative / Instagram

Ten cannabis workers at Zen Leaf in Germantown, Maryland filed for a union election  with UFCW Local 400 in June, to negotiate higher pay, better benefits, and clearer communication with management.

“These are big issues, you know, pay and benefits and respect on the job are huge issues,” Jonathan Williams, UFCW Local 400 Communications Director said.

The group filed for an election through the National Labor Relations Board on June 22nd and are waiting on an election date, which Williams said will likely happen sometime in July. 

“What that does is afford workers the opportunity to vote in an election conducted by the Labor Board, and we would expect that when that vote happens, that workers would vote overwhelmingly to unionize with Local 400,” Williams said. 

Although the group is focused on the unionization process right now, Williams said they are hopeful that Zen Leaf will be open to negotiations when the time comes. Zen Leaf could not be reached for comment. 

“There can be some back and forth there,” Williams said. “That may change the number of workers who would be eligible for the unit. But right now, we filed with a unit of 10 workers who will be eligible.”

Williams said that he expects other dispensary and retail workers will follow suit, despite challenges with high turnover in the workforce.

“We encounter [high turnover] in grocery stores, clothing, retail, and dispensaries. But  especially for medical dispensaries, there is a qualitative difference from other retail stores in that you are dispensing medicine to patients,” Williams said. “And so, the care and quality of those products has to really meet medical standards and safety is a big concern and these kinds of things that just don’t occur in clothing retail.”

Since workers began unionizing at places like Starbucks, Amazon, Apple, UFCW Local 400 has received an influx of calls and interest. 

“Folks that are much more aware of what a union can do, how the process works, and are much more interested in fighting for their rights,” Williams said.

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Shelby is the Mid-Atlantic reporter for Grown In. She has previously written for DIG Boston, Spectrum, and The Boston Globe.