One year after initiating a continental campaign to organize the cannabis industry, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters is beginning to show the fruits of its undertaking. Nearly 500 workers in over a dozen facilities – including dispensaries, growth operations and distributors – have voted to join IBT locals since May 2021.
The cannabis industry has exploded in a very short time – ten years ago, Colorado and Washington had both just voted to become the first two states to legalize recreational cannabis. Now it’s legal recreationally in 18 states and the District of Columbia, with more on the way. Alongside rapid geographic growth has come an equivalent explosion in financial solvency- cannabis is an industry now worth over $25 billion annually.
With cannabis generating billions in tax revenue and a growing segment of the American public supporting legalization, more states are likely to open their doors to the industry. 10 states have either legislation or referendums pending that could legalize recreational cannabis by the end of the year. Even more states have measures to legalize medical cannabis on the horizon.
With all of the profit being made on cannabis, and more soon to be carved out, the workers responsible for the campaign’s success in North America are laboring to ensure those that created the wealth get a piece of the pie.
“For far too long, innocent people were locked up for possession of cannabis,” Peter Finn, Teamsters National Food Processing Director, said in a statement. “Now that there’s billions of dollars to be made in this industry legally, restorative justice is needed. This justice means we ensure that cannabis revenue goes to the people who deserve it the most. We make that happen with a Teamster contract.”
In Chicago, Teamsters Local 777 just negotiated a contract at two Modern Cannabis locations that contain a number of significant improvements, including guaranteed annual raises, a new company guarantee that workers can accept tips, seniority rights and a guarantee of forty hours per week for full-time staff.
Employee Sydney Charles works at one of those dispensaries. In an August 2021 promotional video posted on the Teamsters’ social media accounts, Charles gave these reasons for wanting to organize the cannabis industry:
On Wednesday, Local 777 members and elected officials rallied outside of a Zen Leaf dispensary in Chicago’s Near West Side neighborhood to protest the firing of two union activists by the holding company of the store. The Zen Leaf dispensary is set to vote on whether or not to join Local 777 in mid-July.
Reporting Courtesy of Sean Hagerup
Image Courtesy of Thomas Cizauskas on Flickr