Dispensary Workers Seek to Join a Growing Union Movement After Encountering a Culture of Disrespect

For Immediate Release

Des Plaines, IL – In three separate dispensaries across the Chicagoland area, cannabis workers are seeing a disturbing trend of disrespect from their respective cannabis companies. Dispensary workers are seeking to improve their working conditions, both for themselves and for their patients/customers, by filing for Union Representation elections to join Local 881 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

The dispensaries which independently are seeking to join the Union, represent anywhere from 15-30 workers at each location, including:

    • MedMen—Evanston workers filed their petition on April 17, 2020.
    • Nature’s Care—Rolling Meadows workers filed their petition on April 20, 2020.
    • Sunnyside (owned by Cresco)—Chicago (Lakeview) workers filed their petition on April 3, 2020.

Despite different locations and companies, the workers are facing very similar issues in their workplaces. Workers cite a lack of professionalism, no clarity in the policies and rules in the workplace, a slow and inadequate response to the challenges of the Coronavirus, and a growing culture of disrespect for workers. The dispensary workers are tired of working in facilities with little protections and direction from their companies. Here are just some of the issues the workers are dealing with:

    • The workers are paid low wages, despite generating huge company profits.
    • The companies have provided inadequate worker protection in the midst of the COVID pandemic. As essential workers, serving the public, they are advocating for hazard pay, extended paid sick leave, and the proper personal protective equipment like masks and gloves.
    • Job classifications are not respected ‒ some employees do more advanced work of leads but are paid as lower level associates.
    • Erratic and constantly changing work schedules, create a chaotic environment for the workers. Sometimes they are given less than a week advance notice of schedule changes.
    • Bait & switch practices during hiring: many of the workers were recruited with the promise of working a full-time position, but instead were only offered part-time.

“We want a Union to create a strong new leadership bringing all dispensary employees professional, safe, and fair working conditions,” said Mary Jo, from Nature’s Care in Rolling Meadows.

“I am organizing with Local 881 UFCW because I want to work in a safe workplace and improve the conditions for myself and my co-workers,” said Luke, an employee at MedMen in Evanston. “Under the current crisis, MedMen has been very slow to protect us, and as essential workers, we are not getting hazard pay.”

“If management did our job, they would understand we are not compensated enough and they would see why we need to join the union!” said Ricky, another MedMen Evanston employee.

“Sunnyside Lakeview Wellness advisors are interested in unionizing in order to hold Cresco accountable to the basic employment agreements and company policies offered to them at the at the time of hire,” said Patrick, a Sunnyside Lakeview employee.

We are committed to lifting the standards for cannabis workers in Illinois. We know that these companies can do better by their employees. We are proud to support the efforts of these workers to organize and Unionize to improve their workplaces. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with these essential workers to win their Union election and we will fight to ensure their rights and dignity are respected.

Local 881 is among the largest affiliates of the UFCW, which is proud to represent tens of thousands of cannabis workers across multiple states. UFCW members in the legal cannabis industry work in growing and cultivating facilities, manufacturing and processing facilities, and also in laboratories and dispensaries. Local 881 made history in January 2020, when over 100 workers at the Cresco Labs grow facility in Joliet, IL voted to join the Union.


Contact: Teresa Ramirez-Gonzalez, Local 881 Director of Organizing
[email protected] | 630-254-3090