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Missouri cannabis workers begin unionization campaigns

Missouri cannabis workers begin unionization campaigns

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JEFFERSON CITY — Some workers in Missouri’s growing medical marijuana industry want a seat at the bargaining table this Thanksgiving.

The spokesman for Local 655 of the United Food and Commercial Workers told the Post-Dispatch on Friday that there were multiple campaigns underway among Missouri cannabis workers.

“We have heard from workers in the legal cannabis industry who were interested in joining a union, and we do have a few active campaigns going,” said Collin Reischman, Local 655 spokesman.

He said it was too early to share where the campaigns are taking place and said a formal petition for a union election had not been filed.

“What I can say is we are probing quite a few locations,” Reischman said.

“Some of these campaigns are relatively new and I’m not sure that management is aware that we’ve even spoken to these folks,” he said. “As far as I’m aware there hasn’t been any notable anti-union pushback yet.”

The UFCW, on its website, said it represents tens of thousands of workers across the industry — representing workers in labs, grow facilities, dispensaries and elsewhere — “helping workers secure better wages, protection from unfair discipline, and great benefits with a union contract.”

Reischman said “the majority of our work so far has been in St. Louis but we are definitely probing areas outside of the metro area as well.”

Medical marijuana sales in Missouri began in October 2020, but the majority of licensees were approved to operate months after sales initially started.

“Cannabis is a growing industry, particularly here in Missouri where medical marijuana is really finally just getting off the ground,” Reischman said, “and across the country a lot of those workers have expressed interest in unionizing not just for wages and benefits, but issues like safety, issues like help with compliance, because you want to make sure you’re on the right side of the law.

“UFCW represents the overwhelming majority of union cannabis workers across the country,” Reischman said. “We anticipate hearing from more and more of those workers who are interested in the benefits of joining a union.”

As of Wednesday, there were 5,751 agent IDs issued to cannabis industry workers, according to the Department of Health and Senior Services, which regulates the industry.

Cumulative medical marijuana dispensary sales reached $160 million last month, according to the latest available figures from the Department of Health and Senior Services.

In December, only 17 dispensaries had been cleared to open, along with 11 cultivation facilities and one manufacturing facility. But the state as of last week had given the green light to 174 dispensaries, 52 manufacturing facilities and 39 cultivators, according to the health department.

Workers can form a union by winning voluntary recognition from an employer or as the result of a union election.

A union election follows a card campaign in which 30% of workers demonstrate support for the effort, according to the National Labor Relations Board.

Missouri voters have expressed overwhelming pro-union sentiment in the recent past, rejecting a “right-to-work” law opposed by organized labor in 2018 by a 2-1 margin.

A Gallup poll released in September found 68% of U.S. adults supported labor unions, the highest level of approval since 1965.

Local 655 represents workers at local Schnucks and Dierbergs stores, among other St. Louis-area companies.

Originally posted at 4:23 p.m. Friday, Nov. 19, 2021

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