Union for 11,000 Rhode Island and Massachusetts Workers Highlights Growing Momentum to Support Good-Paying Union Jobs in
New England’s Expanding Cannabis Industry
PORTSMOUTH, RI – Today, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local Union 328 (UFCW) , which represents 11,000 Rhode Island and Massachusetts workers, announced a victory for employees at Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center in Portsmouth who made history as the first Rhode Island cannabis dispensary workers to unionize, voting to join UFCW Local 328. This comes as the Rhode Island cannabis industry is projected to generate $1.7 million in tax revenue in the 2022 fiscal year, and is set to bring in $16.9 million in 2023 tax revenue.
Greenleaf Cannabis Workers in Portsmouth released a joint statement: “We hope that through demonstrating our continued commitment to one another in organizing as workers that we can create some form of lasting change within Greenleaf that allows for better job security and more space for us to actually be heard. We are proud to become a part of the larger momentum being seen by workers to unionize that is taking place within the cannabis industry.”
UFCW Local 328 Director of Organizing, Sam Marvin: “We are so proud of the incredible team at Greenleaf for sticking together. Each day, they provide value to their patients and our communities. We look forward to partnering with them towards building the better future they all have earned.”
The newly unionized UFCW Local 328 Rhode Island cannabis workers at Greenleaf include budtenders, keyholders, online team members and delivery associates. Each day, these workers strive to serve the needs of their patients by providing medicine and guidance through the state’s legal medical [cannabis] program.
In the weeks leading up to the union election, Greenleaf management hired out-of-state anti-union consultants who held mandatory meetings and distributed flyers to employees in the dispensary. Despite their attempts, the workers at Greenleaf remained united and displayed incredible support and solidarity. The tactics by the company only reaffirmed the workers’ strong commitment to forming their union with UFCW Local 328 and securing a better and brighter future for all at Greenleaf.
Rhode Island cannabis workers at Greenleaf cited a wide range of factors that motivated them to unionize with UFCW Local 328, including:
- Greenleaf’s sudden elimination of the employee incentive program
- Significant reduction of employee benefits
- Employee’s lack of power in decision-making
- Management’s failure to listen to employee concerns brought to ownership
- Goal of equitable future in rapidly growing Rhode Island cannabis industry
After filing for their election in February 2021, Greenleaf workers received strong support from their patients at the dispensary, as well as Reclaim RI, an organization in Rhode Island dedicated to ensuring that the expansion of legalized cannabis includes racial, social and economic justice for workers and our communities.
Reclaim RI released the following statement: “Reclaim RI believes that worker justice should be at the center of the legalization process. Workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively are key elements of that vision. We support the Greenleaf workers in their organizing efforts and urge them to vote yes for union representation and a voice at work!”
With this victory, the workers at Greenleaf will now have a collective seat at the table as they negotiate their first agreement. By continuing to build a coalition of support, they will have a strong foundation among patients, community groups and labor allies.
UFCW Local 328 is leading the push to unionize Rhode Island cannabis workers. Greenleaf has now become the second unionized cannabis business in Rhode Island, and the first compassion center. UFCW Local 328 currently represents cultivation workers at Ocean State Cultivation Center in Warwick, Rhode Island, who unanimously ratified their first union contract in October 2020. As Rhode Island is set to move forward with expanding the medical [cannabis] program with six new compassion centers and looks further at legalizing adult recreational use, the efforts of Greenleaf workers and UFCW Local 328 should serve as an example for how to guarantee equity and opportunity for workers in this field.
UFCW Local 328 represents over 11,000 workers in a range of industries across Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts. As the recreational and medical cannabis industries have become mainstream across the United States, the UFCW has represented workers in cultivation and retail operations nationwide and has fought to ensure that working families have a seat at the table to secure important workplace protections and share in the gains and success of the cannabis industry. The UFCW currently is the largest representative of cannabis workers with tens of thousands of members in the industry nationwide.