By Hugh Giordano, UFCW Local 152 Representative/Organizer
It’s no secret: cannabis is the talk of the nation, and in New Jersey “marijuana” is all the rage: from the taxes it will be bring into the state, to how many mergers will happen before a single plant is grown, everyone wants to be involved in this new, exciting opportunity.
One topic that has not been given enough attention by politicians is the potential creation of thousands of jobs through the expansion of medical cannabis, and—fingers crossed—adult-use (also known as recreational) cannabis.
It’s clear that cannabis at any level would bring an incredible economic opportunity for the working class of New Jersey. In April 2019 Forbes magazine estimated that there were 211,000 full-time employees within the U.S. cannabis industry. If you include other auxiliary industries connected to the cannabis industry, such as accountants, marketing firms, lawyers, and other workers who are employed by the industry, that number soars to 296,000 people. Furthermore, in 2018 the cannabis industry added approximately 65,000 new jobs, or had a 44% increase in just one year alone.
New Jersey has the perfect opportunity to legalize cannabis on all levels and create thousands of much-needed jobs within the Garden State. With both Stockton University and Rutgers University already taking the lead in training in the Cannabis Trade, why shouldn’t these educated workers be able to graduate and walk right into a union career? This could help attract professionals from around the country and stop the infamous “leak” of people leaving the state. Forbes estimates that by 2024 cannabis jobs—in positions such as Budtender and Head Grower—will outpace job creation in manufacturing, utilities, and even public sector jobs, meaning college graduates can obtain a union career in cannabis and pay back those notorious student loans.
What people may not know is that a good percentage of cannabis workers in other states are already unionized. As a Union Representative for United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 152, the nation’s largest international cannabis union, it’s my job to make sure that the working class enjoys union guarantees, such as a living wage, healthcare benefits, safe working conditions, vacation, and retirement. Ensuring our workers have a legal voice on the job should be a top priority for both politicians and social justice advocates. At the end of the day, there will be more workers than there will be owners.
Unionized cannabis jobs in New Jersey will allow everyone—from the growers behind the scenes to the friendly security guards—to have a union voice on the job from day one. Potential employees will know that when they start their cannabis careers here in the state of New Jersey that their wages will be about 30% higher than those in non-union facilities in other states. This is will also attract the best cannabis employers in the nation, who will willingly make a choice to treat their workers with respect and put it in a legally binding agreement, a union contract!
Besides the cannabis workers, the real winners will be the medical cannabis patients. Studies have shown that when workers are appreciated both economically and socially, they stay longer and the quality of work is better. Patients deserve to know that the cannabis industry in New Jersey has the best safety standards, quality medicine, and consistency in the work force. Unionized cannabis will do that.
It’s time for New Jersey to legalize adult use and expand medical.
Union Grown. American Made. Jersey Proud.
UFCW Local 152 is not new to fighting on behalf of the cannabis industry up and down the Garden State.
On a national level, the United Food and Commercial Workers represent workers in both medical and recreational cannabis-related industries. UFCW Local 152 is committed to standing with cannabis workers in our area to not only create good jobs, but to also represent them so that their employers pay good wages, good benefits, and fair treatment in a safe work environment. Discover more about the Cannabis Campaign in our area and our efforts to support workers in the industry.
If you work in the Cannabis industry and want to join UFCW Local 152, please contact Hugh Giordano at 609-680-5718 or contact us via our Union Interest form.