In yet another sign of the increasing presence that organized labor has in the U.S. cannabis industry, a mixture of employees and union activists picketed marijuana retailer Shangri-La in central Missouri this week, and some workers have reportedly been fired or suspended as a result.
The shop, located in Columbia, was picketed on Tuesday by about “two dozen current and former employers and union organizers,” according to the Missouri Independent. It’s one of three stores run by the company in Missouri.
The picket line followed the signing of a new petition by 16 Shangri-La employees who want the United Food and Commercial Workers Union to represent them. That petition was filed with the National Labor Relations Board the first week of April, and after that, the UFCW alleges that the company began retaliating against some of the workers, including firing several and suspending others, the Independent reported.
Now, Shangri-La faces at least six federal complaints of unfair labor practices filed by the UFCW, along with the hassle of potentially more picket lines. Union representatives promised that their recruiting would only intensify as the industry continues to grow.
“We have had more interest in workers unionizing for a fair contract, wages, benefits, and working conditions than in any industry that I’ve seen in my career,” David Cook, president of UFCW Local 655 in metro St. Louis, told the Independent. “The interest there is unbelievable.”
Shangri-La denied to the Independent that it had engaged in any union-busting activity or that it had fired employees for pro-union sentiment. The company said it “respects” employees who want to unionize.
The company said some workers had been terminated due to discipline issues and “hostile work environments created by some of our former employees.”
“All the disciplinary actions at Shangri-La, dating back to before these union efforts started, have been based on poor performance and poor attendance,” the company told the Independent.
But Cook said cannabis companies may as well start getting used to the presence of organized labor.
“We want to let the employer know that the workers aren’t going away,” Cook said about the picket line. “They have rights under the National Labor Relations Act. … And if you don’t want to sit down and do what is fair, we will continue to have these types of actions.”
The picket line follows a nearly two-week strike at several cannabis facilities owned by Green Thumb Industries in neighboring Illinois, where workers organized with the Teamsters, which also filed 10 federal complaints with the NLRB against the multistate operator.