LAKEVIEW — Workers at a Lakeview weed dispensary owned by the state’s largest cannabis operator became the first in the state to unionize this week.
Workers at Cresco Labs’ Sunnyside dispensary, 3812 N. Clark St. elected to be represented by Local 881 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union in a 16-4 vote. The union also represents workers at a cultivation center in Joliet owned by Cresco Labs.
While only 20 workers voted, 41 workers will be represented by the union. Only the dispensary’s wellness advisors, more commonly known as “budtenders,” are included in the union.
Workers first petitioned to join the union in early April, but the National Labor Relations Board approved mail-in ballot election was delayed multiple times due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The entire process has tested everyone’s resolve, but we came through in the end,” said Nicholas Stankus, a Sunnyside employee.
In April, Stankus and other dispensary employees told Block Club they wanted to unionize because of what they described as the company’s inadequate response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Zach Koutsky, Local 881 legislative and political director, said the cannabis industry is “ripe” for more union efforts.
“We’re very excited to have been the first…to give voice to these workers and have a successful victory,” he said “This is just kind of the start of workers across the board realizing their value and their power right now.”
The dispensary workers will elect a union representative and the union will send out a survey to workers to prioritize which issues are most important, before contract negotiations between the two parties begin, Koutsky said.
Jason Erkes, chief communications officer for Cresco Labs, said the company looks forward to “continuing to provide all our employees a fair package of employee wages, health and retirement benefits…”
“Throughout this process, we have respected, supported and protected the rights of our employees to make this important decision through an independent, secret ballot,” he said.
The company has long planned to move to a larger Wrigleville location, taking over the old John Barleycorn building at 3524 N. Clark St., but it’s not clear when that move will be approved by the state. A legislative change to the state law that prevents medical dispensaries from relocating was approved by the Illinois Senate, but was not voted on by the Illinois House during the spring legislative session.
Cresco Labs is headquartered in River North, where it opened a second Chicago dispensary in May.
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