Cresco Labs Workers Reportedly De-Unionize

Employees at Cresco in Massachusetts were among the first in the U.S. to exit organized labor.

Thomas Edward

Employees at one of the country’s largest cannabis companies have reportedly fled their union amid a dispute over wages and dues.

The outlet MJBizDaily reports that workers at one of Cresco Labs’ cannabis cultivation facilities in Massachusetts “voted to de-unionize earlier this month,” which it said was “believed to be the first instance in the U.S. of a regulated cannabis workplace exiting organized labor.”

The move comes after workers at the facility in Fall River, Massachusetts “had joined the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 328 in November 2020,” according to MJBizDaily.

“Their first contract was set to expire in June. But rather than negotiate a new deal, the workers elected to ditch the UFCW entirely, Cresco employee Wyatt Brissette told MJBizDaily,” the outlet reported on Tuesday. “Sore points among the formerly unionized workers included scheduled wage increases that didn’t keep up with inflation and ‘arguably worse benefits’ than what nonunion workers received, he said.”

“We felt as if (the union) didn’t match what we needed,” Brissette told the outlet. “We were pretty much paying them for nothing.”

Another outlet, The Dales Report, reported that the exit from the union was “driven by employee dissatisfaction with union dues.”

“The Cresco Labs union situation underscores a significant challenge in unionized sectors, especially in emerging industries like cannabis. Although it is widely believed that unionization protects workers’ rights and ensures fair treatment, the recent events at the company reveal a gap between union efforts and member expectations. This situation sheds light on the complexities of union dynamics in newer, rapidly changing markets,” the outlet said. 

“Cresco Labs’ employees’ decision to leave their union is not isolated but reflects broader sentiments about the effectiveness and utility of such organizations in certain sectors. As the company continues to grow, the impact of this union departure could influence union strategies and employee relations in similar companies. The Cresco Labs issue may lead to a reassessment of union strategies across the industry. Unions might need to adapt more flexibly to the unique challenges and expectations of workers in non-traditional fields like cannabis cultivation. For Cresco Labs, this change could also prompt updates in their human resource policies and employee engagement strategies to more directly address worker concerns without employee mediation.”

According to the company’s official website, Cresco Labs is “one of the largest publicly traded, vertically integrated, multistate cannabis companies in the U.S.” Its stock was trading at below $2 a share on Wednesday, although it is up more than 46 percent year-to-date.

Last year, Cresco Labs called off a planned $2 billion merger with Columbia Care, a deal that would have created the largest cannabis company in the United States.

“In light of the evolving landscape in the cannabis industry, we believe the decision to terminate the planned transaction is in the long-term interest of Cresco Labs and our shareholders. We want to express our sincere gratitude to Columbia Care for their valuable collaboration and dedication during this transaction,” Charles Bachtell, CEO and co-founder of Cresco Labs, in a statement at the time.

“Moving forward, we remain committed to our Year of the Core strategy, which involves the swift restructuring of low-margin operations, improving competitiveness and driving efficiencies in markets where we maintain leading market share, and scaling operations to prepare for growth catalysts in emerging markets. A strong core will enable us to take advantage of the margin accretive, growth opportunities we foresee within this tough economic time for the cannabis industry. While this is not the outcome we originally hoped for, we are confident Cresco Labs is in a stronger position moving forward.”

Nicholas Vita, CEO and co-founder of Columbia Care, said that, “after careful consideration,” his company was “confident in the mutual decision to move forward as separate, standalone companies.” 

“This is the best path forward for Columbia Care’s employees, customers, and shareholders. We are thankful for the collaboration and partnership with the Cresco team throughout this extensive process,” said Vita. “Over the last 16 months we have reviewed every aspect of our business, remained decisive and have made substantive changes that significantly improved our operations — positioning us with significant strategic and operational strength at this inflection point in the company’s history. We are looking forward to realizing the benefits of these changes as well as focusing on the opportunities in our outstanding footprint in markets with embedded upside; diversified portfolio of brands; our award-winning national retail brand, The Cannabist; recently implemented operational and organizational efficiencies; proactive balance sheet management activities; and meaningful equity capital markets initiatives that will propel Columbia Care into one of the most profitable and resilient companies in the industry over the next several years.”

The companies also used the announcement to provide an “additional update”: “the definitive agreements dated November 4, 2022, to divest certain New York, Illinois and Massachusetts assets of Cresco and Columbia Care to an entity owned and controlled by Sean “Diddy” Combs have also been terminated, effective July 28, 2023.”

Thomas Edward

High Times Writer.

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