Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has always been pro-union and he is bringing this attitude to the cannabis industry. The 2020 presidential candidate claimed that workers were not receiving fair wages, even going as far as to encourage employees of a grow facility in Illinois to vote yes for their unionizing. The workers of Joliet, Illinois seem to have taken this to heart. A majority of employees were able to make history by becoming the first cannabis workers to win an election in Illinois.
About 100 workers were eligible to vote on unionization in a state that has only had recreational cannabis for a few weeks. Much focus has been on Illinois massive incoming revenue and the push for social equity programs. Local 881 members at Cresco in Joliet have set a high benchmark.
Cresco Labs has thanked Sanders for supporting their workers and will continue to support the union in their future elections. The push by Local 881 has shown the power workers can have on an industry. It takes a strong resolve on the part of workers to demand a real voice at the workplace.
However, does this move by Cresco Labs sound more like pandering? According to some individuals who commented on their tweet: yes. Individuals are claiming that the company has ways of discouraging unionization, in part by classifying growers under a different class of workers that are not eligible to vote to organize.
Workers are stating that not only did Cresco refuse to voluntarily recognize the union, but that they initiated a full anti-Union campaign the moment the movement started. Local 881 has charged Cresco with numerous violations of federal laws, including intimidation of pro-union workers, coercing employees and soliciting workers grievances.
The cannabis industry will continue to grow in Illinois. It is disappointing to see Cresco lower their standards and expectations of jobs in the industry.