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Sep 20, 2021
Report: Cannabis Workers Unionizing Leads to Higher Quality Jobs

A new report released by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that unionization was key to ensuring new jobs created in the fast-growing cannabis industry were safer, better paying, and more likely to provide benefits like health care, paid leave, and fair scheduling.

The report also found that Labor Peace Agreements (LPAs) between companies and workers in the industry successfully protected the right of cannabis workers to unionize while supporting greater alignment between companies and workers. This led to increased job quality and pay standards for all workers, particularly those of color, in addition to increased safety for customers and workers. Specifically, unionized cannabis workers earned up to $8,690 more than their non-union, non-cannabis peers. This model provides a tangible opportunity to repair the harm done to communities of color during the war on drugs.

Key findings in the EPI report include:

  • Labor peace agreements (LPAs) have proven successful in protecting cannabis workers’ rights to organize in states that foster them. LPAs prevent union busting by employers in exchange for workers’ pledge not to strike.
  • Cannabis workers across job sectors make more than their non-union counterparts in similar jobs.
      • Retail: $2,810 more in annual wages
      • Processing: $8,690 more in annual wages
      • Cultivation: $7,030 more in annual wages.
  • And cannabis workers of color earn up to 32 percent more from unionization than non-union cannabis workers of color.
  • The cannabis industry supports jobs across multiple sectors. Protecting the quality of these jobs improves employment opportunities for American workers of a wide variety of skill and education levels. Cannabis occupations include:
      • Retail Sector: patient care coordinator clerk, customer service representative, and security guard.
      • Processing Sector: extraction, lab and production technicians, edible specialists, packagers, and inventory control.
      • Cultivation Sector: horticulturalist, grower, and trimmer/post-harvester
  • Acting early in the legalization process will safeguard cannabis workers’ right to unionize and would counteract wage declines that threaten workers as the industry becomes less stigmatized.

After the report’s release, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) is calling on federal and state legislators to build on the success of the cannabis industry in creating high quality, better paying jobs for hardworking Americans.

“As America’s largest cannabis workers union, the UFCW urges all states, as they consider new cannabis policy, to include worker standards,” said Ademola Oyefeso, UFCW’s legislative and political director and international vice president. “Doing so will ensure that the thousands of hardworking people and families affect by failed policies benefit from legalization in the form of quality, sustainable jobs.”

Policy discussions around equity in the emerging cannabis industry have focused on investment and entrepreneurial opportunities in business licensing, with very little attention being paid to equity in cannabis industry jobs. Existing unionized cannabis businesses in states with legal cannabis provide examples of how formalizing workers’ rights and participation in company decision-making has led to both business success and more remunerative jobs for those in the industry.

As Congress considers the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act discussion draft introduced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senators Cory Booker (New Jersey) and Ron Wyden (Oregon), the UFCW is urging lawmakers to recognize the importance of strengthening protections and the right to unionize for all workers in the fast-growing cannabis industry which already supports 321,000 American jobs nationwide.


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