Historic win for cannabis workers


UNFAIR LABOR PRACTICES: Employees and supporters working to organize at Shangri La cannabis dispensary picket against Unfair Labor Practices outside the Shangri-La South dispensary in Columbia, Mo. on May 16, 2023. – Rudi Keller/Missouri Independent photo

A few weeks ago I wrote about how changes at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) would positively impact workers. I wrote that it was a simple fact that President Joe Biden’s appointments to the NLRB were clearly favorable for workers in America.

Well, we now have concrete proof that the NLRB is finally working for hard-working Americans, and not the corporate powers that too often control this country.

Last week, the owners of Shangri-La dispensary in Columbia, Mo., reached a settlement with 10 wrongly-terminated workers as UFCW Local 655 and the NLRB were preparing to take them to court.

This past summer, Shangri-La employees voted to join Local 655 and seek a union contract. During the campaign, Shangri-La engaged in numerous violations of Labor law, terminating 10 employees without cause and engaging in manipulation and intimidation.

We didn’t forget those workers, and we weren’t going to lay down and watch as yet another company abused their workforce and broke the law. We immediately filed Labor Board charges and brought our case to the NLRB. The board found our case was so strong that they agreed with nearly every charge and ordered an expedited trial. Days before witness testimony was set to begin, Shangri-La came to us to settle their case. The reason here is obvious: they knew they were in the wrong and that they were set to lose in court.

The settlement is the most sweeping and comprehensive win I’ve seen in my 37 years in the Labor Movement. Let’s talk about the big headlines:

  • First, Shangri-La offered every employee they terminated their jobs back and will pay back pay with interest.
  • For those that chose not to come back to work, Shangri-La had to give them an additional $5,000 on top of their back pay. These payouts totaled about $150,000 in money right into the pockets of workers.

Not only did Shangri-La have to make these employees whole through financial restitution, they have to do much more. The settlement requires them to read a statement to employees — with union staff present — acknowledging worker’s rights to organizing and promising not to engage in illegal practices in the future.

The company must also allow workers to discuss union organizing on company property and cannot remove union organizers from their facilities. In short, “workers won.”

This settlement will allow workers at this company to participate in union organizing the way all workers deserve: out in the open and without the fear of reprisals. Whether or not workers wish to form a union in their workplace is a decision that should be up to them, and only them. It’s a democratic process that, if done fairly, allows for workers to make an informed decision based on all the facts.

Sadly, the balance is rarely in favor of the workers. Most of the time, hard-working people are forced to have discussions about organizing in whispers, or not at all. They have to meet in secret outside of work, they have to hide their feelings, and they have to hope their bosses don’t single them out for meetings aimed at coercing them into voting against their own interests.

We make an offer during many of our organizing campaigns. We offer to meet with the company at any time or place in full view of the workers to mutually answer any and all questions. We feel this is the most transparent way to share information. We have nothing to hide, and we welcome the chance to stand next to the company and offer up all the information we can. Of course, companies never take us up on the offer because they know that when presented with facts and facts alone, workers will often choose a union.

They often do anything they can to keep us from speaking to their employees. Ask any union organizer and they’ve probably lost track of how many times managers have called the police on them simply for having conversations with employees.

Thanks to this settlement, we have at least one employer that won’t try to chase our staff out of the door for simply wanting to talk to employees. We won’t take this moment for granted, and I am hopeful that this settlement will serve as a notice to other employers across the state, because the message is simple: “we won’t back down and we’ll fight for employees who are wronged.”

Unions aren’t about their buildings or their staff or their leaders. Unions are about all of us, collectively, standing together and using our power. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder to fight back. The workers at Shangri-La can attest to the value of rolling with UFCW Local 655. Without paying a single penny in dues, without a finished union contract, they still had our support and our guidance.

Solidarity isn’t just a word. It’s a principle. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. No one attacks this family without consequences.

One Comment

  • This is fantastic!!! However, the locals here in MI bailed many tines when cannabis workers were fired. It truly depends on if the local cares or not.


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