The vote signals the first successful unionization attempt in Illinois—and just one case in a growing history across the U.S. cannabis industry.
At Cresco Labs’ cannabis cultivation facility in Joliet, Ill., employees voted 58-37 in favor of joining United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 881 on Jan. 14. The 95 employees’ collective decision marks the first time that Illinois cannabis workers have engaged a union.
The UFCW has led a Cannabis Workers Rising campaign since 2010, which has gone on to represent more than 10,000 cannabis industry employees in the U.S., according to the union’s website.
“This victory is the workers’,” Zach Koutsky, the legislative and political director for UFCW Local 881, told the Chicago Sun-Times. While the Joliet facility employs 130 workers, only those 95 were eligible to cast a vote under the labor agreements stitched into Illinois’ adult-use cannabis law. (Those agreements are part of the state’s requirements in awarding business licenses.)
“Throughout this process, we have respected, supported and protected the rights of our employees to make this important decision through an independent secret ballot election,” Cresco Labs CEO Charlie Bachtell wrote in a public statement. “We look forward to continuing to provide all of our employees a fair package of employee wages, health and retirement benefits and an environment that is a great place to work.”
Koutsky went on to tell the newspaper that salary compensation and health benefits were future negotiating targets. In a long Rolling Stone feature on UFCW’s attempts to unionize workers throughout the U.S. cannabis industry, the organization’s top brass claims that these processes help legitimize the landscape as it comes into a sense of standardized compliance and begins to compete with more established industries (like consumer packaged goods and certain beverage segments). The UFCW has also helped to galvanize the National Labor Relations Board into recognizing cannabis as a legal space where workers and employers interact regularly.