Many of you may be aware that your local union has been busy organizing many new workers into UFCW 5. One industry that has been a target for organizing is the recreational cannabis industry. In 2019, UFCW 5 successfully organized five new cannabis companies. What looked like an endless potential for growth, both from the industry perspective and from the union perspective, came to a surprising halt as 2019 ended. The halcyon days of boundless investment coming into the cannabis industry dried up as the reality of the challenges in the regulated market came into focus.
These challenges include: a large number of unregulated operators competing with regulated operators, high taxes (which can be up to 40%), and a limited amount of retail sites being licensed in localities across California. Despite these challenges, in 2019 the regulated cannabis industry in California produced about $6.6 billion in sales. There is large room for growth, and though it may be uneven at times, thousands of jobs are projected to be created over the coming years in the legal cannabis industry and UFCW 5 will be there to ensure that the workers who work in the industry are able to share in the profits made.
In addition to the market challenges that cannabis companies face, workers are facing increasing hurdles to organize. The ownership of cannabis companies are no longer your local “mom and pop” shops but are increasingly corporate and Wall St owned. If this story sounds familiar, it is. The cannabis industry is going through a dramatic change like what the grocery industry experienced in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The good news is because of the work of UFCW over the past decade in California, there are still many labor protections in place to elevate the voice of workers, but enforcement of these protections are only guaranteed when workers organize the union.
We are negotiating contracts currently with Grass Roots in San Francisco, Fume in Cotati/Clearlake, fighting for recognition of the CBA at two Have-a-Heart Dispensaries in Oakland and Santa Cruz and fighting for recognition for workers at The Guild in San Jose. When we are successful with these fights more than 200 workers will be joining the 150 members already working at unionized shops in Oakland, Vallejo, San Jose and San Francisco.
There are no shortcuts to organizing and power never relents without a fight. You can be sure that the cannabis members and organizers at UFCW 5 are working hard so that cannabis workers will have a voice in this growing industry. Stay tuned for updates and visit our website to learn more about how you can help workers organize.