Illinois Residents Want To Unionize Against Their Cannabis Employers

Recreational marijuana was only legalized for use in 2019, but revenue in 2020 came in at over $1 billion. That’s a major win for lawmakers looking to puff up the budget. But naturally, the chaos will follow. Now, many recently employed workers for the cannabis industry are considering joining the fight to unionize. They want what every unionized worker in the U.S. wants: higher wages and job security.

This is especially true amidst the pandemic. Believe it or not, marijuana dispensaries are filled with “essential workers!”

Director of organizing for the Local 881 district of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Moises Zavala says there’s a difference between a job and a career: “The industry has unfortunately just provided jobs, and not the well-paying careers that we all thought cannabis was going to generate.”

A unionization of the marijuana industry would be a big deal. Currently, there are “82 dispensaries, 21 cultivation centers and nearly 17,000 cannabis workers.” 

And the industry is only getting bigger.

Co-Director Martin Malin of the Institute for Law and the Workplace at Chicago-Kent College of Law said, “If they’re able to get some significant victories and negotiate some good contracts, they can build momentum, they can point to those as they organize workers at other facilities.”

The marijuana revenue at the state level was split between recreational and medicinal — but recreational provided the bigger piece of pie for Illinois, with nearly two-thirds of the revenue coming from dispensaries. 

2021 has already experienced significant growth in the sector. In the first two months alone, there was $232 million in marijuana sales. 

The marijuana industry pays on average $15 an hour around the country, and most jobs come with a benefits package as well, including PTO, medical, 401(k) and stock options because most recreational weed companies are public. 

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