The employees of a Pennsylvania medical marijuana company have signed a labor contract with their employer, making them the first cannabis workers in the state to unionize. The three-year agreement between employees and management of Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Solutions was recently ratified, making about 30 production and laboratory operations workers in a Scranton manufacturing facility members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776 Keystone State.
Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Solutions is a subsidiary of Vireo Health, a cannabis company licensed to operate in 11 markets with legal cannabis. Kyle Kingsley, the CEO of Vireo Health, said in a press release that the firm supports its employees’ right to unionize.
“As a socially responsible business, Vireo is deeply committed to its employees and is proud to be a union employer,” Kingsley said. “We believe that a unionized workforce is key to our company’s success and look forward to partnering with UFCW to support legislation, such as legalizing adult-use cannabis, that will help create thousands of new middle-class jobs across the Keystone State.”
Vireo Health also has plans to open three medical marijuana dispensaries in the state by the end of the year, which will create up to 20 more union jobs for retail workers.
“This is a fantastic contract for our members and a great win for the future of all workers in the cannabis industry,” said UFCW 1776KS president Wendell Young IV. “I am very proud of the role that UFCW has played in helping to bring collective bargaining to the cannabis industry and help create good-paying jobs in Pennsylvania. I want to thank our union bargaining committee and Vireo Health for their hard work on this contract.”
“The UFCW offers cannabis workers and business owners, along with patients and coalition allies, the opportunity to work together to accomplish shared goals,” the union writes on its website. “By crafting and supporting targeted legislative efforts, along with negotiating the best contracts for workers, we are giving workers a voice in the workplace and beyond!”
Unionization a National Trend
Vireo Health also has subsidiaries in New York and Minnesota with workers who have unionized. Nationwide, about 10,000 workers in the cannabis industry are covered by a union contract, mostly on the West Coast, where cannabis has been legal the longest.
“We looked at the cannabis industry and said the union could use its political power to bring forward the good players out of the black market, and bring some credibility and establish a legitimate industry,” Jim Araby, of Northern California’s UFCW Local 5, told Rolling Stone earlier this year.
Nikki Kateman of UFCW Local 338 in New York said that unions can help create a more socially equitable cannabis industry.
“Our members live in communities that have been disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs,” said Kateman. “We want to right the wrongs our members have experienced.”