Illinois’ cannabis workers vote to unionize with UFCW Local 881

Joliet, IL – Cannabis workers at Cresco Labs have voted to organize with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 881, making them the first cannabis workers in the state of Illinois to have a union.

The vote was 58-32.

Local 881 President Steve Powell said the union “is proud of these workers and looks forward to standing with them to negotiate a fair and just contract that will improve their working conditions.”

Cresco Labs employs 562 employees in Illinois, and has two cultivation centers in the state and three current dispensaries. It has plans to open five more retail locations. All told, Cresco employs 1,180 workers at 23 production centers and 22 retail locations.

UFCW Legislative and Political Director Zach Koutsky said the company’s success, coupled with its relatively low pay structure, convinced workers that a union would be beneficial.

“The wages for such a profitable company are low,” Koutsky said. “They have health care provided by the company, but it’s very expensive.”

The Cresco Labs victory could be just the start for Organized Labor in Illinois’s marijuana industry. In addition to UFCW, three other unions are hoping to represent workers in various sectors of the industry, including Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which is working to organize security employees; the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), which is working to organize maintenance workers; and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), which has begun organizing cannabis transportation workers.

Illinois joined California in writing labor peace agreements into its state cannabis regulations, requiring management to allow union organizing campaigns to proceed without interference. Cresco complied with its agreement, issuing a statement prior to the vote that it would work with whatever decision its workers made.

“We support our employees’ right to be represented if they wish,” Cresco spokesman Jason Erkes told Chicago Business. “The choice is theirs, and we support them in whatever decision they make.”


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