Cannabis Union Recruiting Ramps up in Midwest

Teamsters and UFCW have both chalked up recent wins in the Midwest.

Labor unions are ramping up their recruiting efforts in two key Midwest markets: Illinois and Missouri.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters announced a victory in Illinois on Tuesday, with Chicago-area Local 777 notching a victory at Zen Leaf in the Rogers Park neighborhood. Workers voted “overwhelmingly” to join the Teamsters, according to a press release from the union.

Zen Leaf is a subsidiary of multistate operator Verano Holdings, which is based in Chicago.

This is the third Illinois Zen Leaf shop to unionize with the Teamsters, following worker approval in Pilsen and Schaumburg.

Peter Finn, Teamsters Western Region International Vice President and Director of the Food Processing Division, added that the union is nowhere near done recruiting marijuana industry workers to its ranks.

“If past is prologue, next year is going to be a big year for Teamsters in the Chicago cannabis industry,” Finn said.

In neighboring Missouri, meanwhile, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union has been pounding the pavement, trying to persuade more cannabis shop and cultivation facility employees that labor’s the way to go.

UFCW Local 655 is trying to ride a wave of momentum following a $145,000 settlement that the union won in a fight with retail chain Shangri-La, KCUR reported. Organizers aimed to speak with workers in 100 cannabis shops in the eastern half of the state, but they have encountered pushback as some managers warned their employees against unionizing.

Still, Local 655 already has won worker unionization votes at about 20 dispensaries, KCUR reported, including Hi-Pointe Cannabis, High Profile Cannabis, and Bloom Medicinal Dispensary.

Yet other shops – including Homestate Dispensary and Root 66 Dispensary – have voted to unionize with the Teamsters Local 955.

UFCW organizer Sean Shannon said the cannabis trade is almost ideal for recruiting new union members.

“This is a tight knit community that takes care of each other. They’re already learning that … having a union backing you up, it’s the only way to truly make a difference,” Shannon told KCUR. “I’ve been telling people, ‘Wait till you feel that contract high.’”

John Schroyer

John Schroyer has been a reporter since 2006, initially with a focus on politics, and covered the 2012 Colorado campaign to legalize marijuana. He has written about the cannabis industry specifically since 2014, after being on hand for the first-ever legal cannabis sales on New Year’s Day that year in Denver. John has covered subsequent marijuana market launches in California and Illinois, has written about every aspect of the marijuana trade, and was part of the team that built the cannabis industry’s first-ever trade show, MJBizCon. He joined Green Market Report in 2022.

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