Workers at Nature’s Root Labs in Colorado and Union Harvest in Florida recently reached an agreement to unionize the employees at both businesses. Nature’s Root Labs sells CBD to Union Harvest, which uses it to make products for its customers. Workers from both businesses joined the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) near the end of May.
“[The] agreement between UFCW and these companies in Longmont, Colorado marks a first of its kind, across-the-board unionized CBD joint venture that sets the precedent for even more workers in the industry to unionize,” a press release from UFCW reportedly states.
High Times reported that this could open the door for more cannabis businesses that have multiple locations or licenses in multiple states to unionize.
“In the past, this has kept businesses from being able to make such a move because of the federal illegality of cannabis and the disconnect between different state laws,” the article states.
Justin Eisenach, the managing direction and founder of Union Harvest, told the Denver Post that he hopes that the unionization will set an example for others in the industry.
The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the need for fair working conditions
Although the COVID-19 pandemic is beginning to wind down, the experiences people had while working through the pandemic reportedly highlighted the need for fair working conditions, as well as the role unions can play in advocating for those conditions.
“Job security is important, especially during a pandemic,” Ataya Arreguin reportedly said in a statement. Arreguin is an employee at Nature’s Root Labs. “I have two kids and throughout the past year I have been worried about losing my job because of the pandemic. Now that we have a union, I feel even more confident that these jobs are secure and that they can become a great career that help us build a better life for us and our families.”
According to media reports, union organizing has been on the upswing in the cannabis industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a March 2021 article, Marijuana Business Magazine cited three reasons for this.
It states that the rise in union organizing has been caused by
Increased employee anxiety regarding workplace health and safety during the pandemic
A growing number of states mandating labor peace agreements (LPAs)
Aggressive targeting from unions as union membership declines in other industries
UFCW is actively organizing in the cannabis industry
The Denver Post and Marijuana Business Magazine both list UFCW as a major force behind this increased unionization occurring throughout the cannabis industry. Marijuana Business Magazine suggests that the pressure of the pandemic has only added to the existing momentum.
A Marijuana Business Magazine article from March listed 16 cannabis operations around the country that have moved forward with unionizing efforts since the beginning of the pandemic. However, the article acknowledges that its list could be incomplete.
The UFCW is made up of roughly 1.3 million workers in the grocery, retail, pharmacy, health care, manufacturing, food processing, meat packing and cannabis industries. In the cannabis industry, UFCW represents people who work in dispensaries, labs, delivery, kitchens, manufacturing, processing, grow facilities and more. Back in 2019, Rolling Stone dubbed UFCA “America’s Most Powerful Cannabis Union,” and it seems that this could still be true today.
“We’re very actively organizing in cannabis . . . And we’re continuing to have success,” Randy Tiffey told the Denver Post. Tiffey is the organizing director for UFCW 7 in Colorado.
According to the union’s website, UFCW can help improve a work situation by advocating for better wages, work-life balance, fair scheduling, access to affordable healthcare, workplace safety, workplace equality and other benefits.