Dispensary workers in Illinois are fed up with what they say are low wages and unfair practices committed by a major dispensary chain.
Members of Teamsters Local 777 members at three RISE Dispensaries in Chicagoland, a subsidiary of Green Thumb Industries, walked off the job on April 19 at 4:20 p.m. CT to launch an open-ended unfair labor practice (ULP) strike. It’s the largest strike of its kind in the state to date, according to an April 19 press release.
“RISE workers are very grateful for the support and kind words they have received from their fellow Teamsters throughout the country, as well as the Illinois cannabis community,” Matt McQuaid, a Teamster representative, told High Times in an email. “We are still on the picket line.”
Local 777 members say that RISE dispensaries demanded that workers at the Niles location remove pro-union buttons while they were on the job, which is a violation of the National Labor Relations Act. The Chicago Tribune reports that the Teamsters planned to strike just before the biggest day in sales for dispensaries. The strike arrives as workers in multiple states push for a higher minimum wage to meet the cost of living.
“The company’s demand that the workers remove their pins is part of a broader pattern of disrespect to their workforce,” stated Jim Glimco, Local 777 President. “GTI is refusing to offer these men and women wages commensurate with the cost of living, or retirement package that is acceptable for Teamsters. It’s far past time this company recognize the people responsible for all of the success it’s had.”
RISE opened 11 dispensaries across the state of Illinois, with six total in the Chicagoland area. WGN 9 reports that RISE Dispensaries parent company, Green Thumb Industries, plans on keeping the stores open despite the impact from the strike.
“These workers deserve prosperous, middle-class careers and they’re willing to fight for it,” stated Peter Finn, Teamsters Western Region International Vice President and Food Processing Division Director. “They aren’t walking off the job by themselves. They’re walking onto that picket line as one unified front, with the backing of more than 1.2 million Teamsters throughout North America.”
Several Illinois dispensary workers also chimed in to show their support for better wages that would show their true value.
“We’re focused on creating a high-quality career here and we need a wage that reflects how valuable we are,” stated Reilly Drew, a patient care specialist at the RISE Niles dispensary. “People think of advancing as moving up the ladder, but in this situation, it’s about raising the whole floor up for everyone. We want to make this a prosperous industry because it’s a profitable industry.”
“The forceful removal of these buttons shows us how GTI feels about our movement, and how little they care about us as workers,” said Julie Evans, a patient care specialist at the RISE Rock Creek Boulevard dispensary in Joliet. “I feel that it is extremely unfair, disrespectful, and rude that Niles was forced to remove their insignias while other stores were not. I stand with my fellow Teamsters in solidarity against this unfair labor practice.”
Workers described the risks they encountered that took place during a strike.
“I voted to strike in solidarity with my RISE coworkers over the baseless and uninformed removal of the union button, which was intended to reduce representation in our stores,” said Brandon Basil, a patient care specialist at the Colorado Street RISE dispensary in Joliet. “We’ll fight for a fair contract with more to offer for our incredibly hardworking brothers and sisters in the cannabis industry, including a living wage!”