When workers describe corporate tactics comparable to a post-apocalyptic totalitarian society, you have to wonder, what will it take to hold the cannabis industry accountable for its actions? The money just keeps rolling in for these cannabis corporations and the workers are clearly not benefiting or being treated as they deserve.
Grace Baffoe, a Product Specialist at the Curaleaf Cannabis Dispensary in Skokie, Illinois, reached out to Local 881 in September when she and her coworkers had reached a breaking point. Like many cannabis workers, Grace was excited to be a part of this growing industry because of her passion for helping people learn about the benefits of cannabis. The cannabis company she had joined had recently been through a corporate merger and was now the world’s largest multi-state cannabis company. As the company grew and evolved, what had been an exciting job opportunity in a promising industry, quickly changed to a very toxic work environment. As Grace explained:
I joined the company with all this hope for what being a part of the cannabis industry could be. But after awhile, it felt like the building had no heart, and no one had a stake in the day-to-day operations. It’s any easy product to sell, people are willing to wait in line. Corporations aren’t compelled to take care of the workers making it happen as long as the money keeps rolling in.
We kept waiting for things to get better. All we heard were false promises. Some of our coworkers got promoted, but then were pitted against each other to battle for who would get the raise in pay. It was like being in ‘The Hunger Games!’ In the end, all the workers got was more responsibility and NO ONE got an increase!
I have always been a food worker myself. I have family members who were part of the UFCW. I really became sure of Local 881 as a group that could help make cannabis more equitable, because I learned that they helped push through the legalization law in Illinois. I knew that, unlike my corporate bosses, Local 881 had respect for both the plant and for the people working in the cannabis industry. We think a Union contract is our best chance to change this industry for the better and get the respect we deserve.
Grace isn’t alone. Since October, three separate Curaleaf dispensaries (in Worth, Mokena, and Skokie) have voted to join Local 881, because of similar stories of corporate greed and disturbing management practices. Nearly a year into legalization, cannabis workers across Illinois are starting to see the underbelly of working in the industry.
Dispensary workers have reported the following issues:
- Low wages
- Hours being cut
- Facility and equipment issues (like toilets that do not flush)
- Schedules being posted with no advance notice
- Lack of benefits or job security
- A ‘Hunger Games’-like approach to promotions and raises
- Corporate culture that enables manager’s disrespect of workers
Although the cannabis products and environment seem progressive and cutting edge, the cannabis industry business methods are direct from the old school big corporation playbook, doing all they can to make a buck, while squeezing their employees. The cannabis industry needs to be held accountable for how they treat their workers, and the best way to do that is for cannabis workers to join Local 881!
We are incredibly proud of these brave workers who are standing up for positive and meaningful change in this industry and we are proud to support them. Local 881 is proud to be the first and only Union to negotiate Cannabis contracts in Illinois with Cresco Labs in Joliet and with the Sunnyside Dispensary in Chicago (Lakeview). Local 881 has been successful in negotiating wage increases, more paid leave, increased employee product discount, a robust grievance procedure, and stronger protection language for cannabis workers. Local 881 is committed to ensuring that the cannabis industry lives up to the promises it made to the communities when it lobbied for their support for legalization.
If you know someone working in the Cannabis industry. Tell them about Local 881’s fight to improve the Cannabis industry in Illinois, visit: ILCannabisWorkersUnited.org