Cresco Labs

Workers of Cresco Labs want Unions in Illinois’ Marijuana Industry

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Barely two weeks after recreational cannabis sales were officially allowed, workers at Cresco Labs, a marijuana facility in Illinois, voted on the decision to unionize.

Zach Koutksy, legislative director for Local 881 UCFW, said one hundred eligible voters from a total of approximately 130 workers at Cresco voted on the decision to be represented by the United Food & Commercial Workers union.

The workers’ primary demands are higher wages, lower cost of healthcare, and better respect on the job among other demands. The results of the vote were unavailable by the Tuesday evening deadline.

Marijuana businesses are more likely to accept employees who are part of a union. The cannabis industry in Illinois holds the potential to become the top in the country, believe experts.

Related: Illinois Introduces Medical Marijuana Plan To Battle Opioid Crisis

Earlier this month, the first round of application on dispensary licenses was closed and of the 700 submitted applications, the permits for 75 new dispensaries shall be handed out in May.

The state has set scoring criteria that award points to the applications on their employment and labor practices, among many others. The applicants for new licenses can have their score enhanced by signing a peace agreement whereby the company and the union promise not to disrupt the other side.

Koutsky, who also serves as the political director, said that about half of the applicants had signed the license with Local 881.

Cresco Labs operates throughout the United States and is among the most prominent cannabis business in Illinois. The company operates grow facilities in Joliet, Lincoln, and Kankakee. The firm already operates five dispensaries in the state and intends to double the number in the state at least.

Cresco Labs spokesman Jason Erkes spoke in support of the employees, “We support our employees’ right to be represented if they wish, while also strongly advocating for their right to vote in a secret ballot election. The choice is theirs, and we support them in whatever decision they make.”

Related: Former Illinois State Representative Lawmaker Makes His Medical Marijuana Prescription Public

Robert Bruno, professor for labor and employment at the University of Illinois, commented that it is common for young industries to try and unionize to be able to collectively bargain for better working standards and professionalism at work.

Bruno further commented that elections play a crucial role in determining the dynamics of the industry and decide on future standards. The United Food & Commercial Workers union is active in twelve states and has a representation of more than ten thousand industry workers.

This is not the first attempt towards unionization. Last month, workers at Green Thumb Industries voted to join the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. These workers from the company’s Rock Island grow facility missed their target by a narrow margin.

In the first twelve days, the dispensaries across Illinois clocked sales upwards of $19.7 million. Queues and shortages were standard and these recreational sales had to be stopped at times. Some dispensaries closed for a day and gave their employees a break. Nevertheless, in the history of legal cannabis, Illinois has clocked in one of the strongest sales numbers in early sales.

Professor Bruno commented on the state’s growing labor movement and remained positive on future laws and companies’ presence in the industry.

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