Ten workers at a Curaleaf Holdings Inc. (CSE: CURA) (OTCQX: CURLF) dispensary in Phoenix went on strike Friday for a single day, in an attempt they say to force company executives to the bargaining table.
The striking employees unionized with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 99 in June 2022, Fox 10 Phoenix reported, but employees say they have yet to reach an employment contract agreement with Curaleaf, and accused the company of stonewalling negotiations.
“We’re demanding that Curaleaf come to the table, and negotiate with us like they were supposed to do when the NLRB ordered them to recognize us,” Nickolas Fredrickson, a budtender at Curaleaf Midtown, told Fox 10 Phoenix. “We’ve been fighting for almost two years now, and we aren’t anywhere close to a contract.”
The strike even drew the attention of Democratic state Rep. Analise Ortiz, who told workers walking the picket line, “Your direct action here today speaks volumes, and when you take brave courageous actions like this to walk off the job, you not only are fighting for yourselves and your coworkers but for every worker who is taken advantage of by their employer and by corporations.”
In a statement to the TV station, Curaleaf said it “respects the rights of team members who have chosen to be represented by a union.”
“Where team members have chosen such representation, the company will pursue an honest, business-like approach in working with those representatives,” Curaleaf said. “While we believe that a direct relationship with our team members is the best route for us to work together, we respect the voices of our team members and will negotiate with union leaders in good faith. We know our team members, our business and our patients and customers depend on a positive work environment, and we are committed to a collaborative culture that allows our team to feel heard, supported, and respected.”
A spokesman for UFCW Local 99 clarified that all employees who went on strike on Friday have since returned to work, except for one employee who was terminated by Curaleaf for union-related activity, the UFCW spokesperson said.
Curaleaf is no stranger to labor disputes.
According to the agency’s online database, the company has at least 35 active unfair labor practice complaints open with the National Labor Relations Board, including three pending against Curaleaf Midtown in Phoenix and several more against other Arizona dispensaries run by Curaleaf.
The complaints against the Phoenix Midtown store – all filed in September 2022 but updated within the past week with new notices of hearings – allege retaliation against employees for union activity, refusal to bargain in good faith, illegal termination, and coercive statements by Curaleaf management.
The strike is the latest example of unions flexing their political and legal muscle in the cannabis industry. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters also led a nearly two-week strike at multiple Green Thumb Industries facilities in Illinois earlier this year and also used unfair labor practice complaints as leverage during the contract negotiation process.