JEFFERSON CITY — Workers at a St. Louis medical marijuana dispensary are seeking to unionize in what a union official says could be the first representation election involving workers in Missouri’s legal cannabis industry.
Bernadette Faure, a product specialist at Swade Cannabis in the Grove, said following an organizing campaign, workers on Thursday submitted a petition for a union election to company management and the National Labor Relations Board.
An election administered by the NLRB is typically held within 45 days, said Collin Reischman, spokesman for Local 655 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, which is seeking to represent the workers in bargaining negotiations.
Faure said six product specialists are part of the proposed bargaining unit.
She said the employees had not received a response from management as of Thursday afternoon. Swade is a brand of Earth City-based Beleaf Co.
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“I can confirm the petition was received by the NLRB’s Regional Office in St. Louis and it is being docketed,” Kayla Blado, spokeswoman for the NLRB, said on Thursday.
“We really present this as an opportunity to the company to retain us long term,” Faure said. “We love our jobs and we want to secure them into the future, but we want it to be through a contracted deal that we have in writing and that can’t be changed without our authorization.
“We have to know that we have a seat at the table,” Faure said.
Jack Haddox, director of dispensary operations for Swade, said in a statement that the company “will not stand in the way of unionization efforts” and said the company is committed to “industry-leading pay and benefits starting on the first day of employment.”
“Swade employees receive an industry-leading starting wage and tips, excellent health care benefits with medical, dental and vision coverage at 100% of the premiums paid for employees and 50% for dependents,” he said in a statement. He said the company offers a 401(k) matching program and flexible scheduling.
Reischman said in November multiple union campaigns were underway among Missouri cannabis workers. He said this election is the first he knows of in Missouri by cannabis workers.
Jack Cardetti, spokesman for the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association, said he wasn’t aware of any other union elections within the industry.
Union elections follow campaigns in which at least 30% of employees demonstrate support, according to the NLRB.
Employees can unionize either through an election or by winning voluntary recognition from their employers.
Reischman said that if Swade’s employees opt to form a union, the UFCW will represent workers in contract negotiations with management.
Swade operates five dispensaries: three in St. Louis, one in Ellisville and one in St. Peters.
Reischman said unionization campaigns typically occur at individual locations rather than companywide.
For example, workers at a Buffalo, New York, Starbucks store voted to unionize in December, but the votes at two other locations were inconclusive.
Unionization campaigns among Missouri cannabis workers coincide with a recent swell of support for organized labor.
A Gallup poll released in September found 68% of U.S. adults supported labor unions, the highest level of approval since 1965.