By Hugh Giordano, UFCW Local 152 Representative/Organizer
The leadership of UFCW Local 152 prides itself on being on the cutting edge of the Labor movement. Waking up each day and fighting for the working class is always at the forefront for Local 152. Every member of our UFCW Local 152 family knows that when any one of our union brothers and sisters shows up to work to perform their best, that brother or sister deserves to know that they will be compensated with good wages, benefits, and job safety. On a local level, we pride ourselves when it comes to unionizing workers without a true voice on the job, hence – we believe that the cannabis industry deserves those same guarantees with a strong UFCW Local 152 voice.
Over the years, our Local has made strides to inform cannabis workers that they have the right to organize, and with that came alliances with other organizations that have supported the unionization of the medical cannabis industry in New Jersey and the United States as a whole. Thanks to the help of the Coalition of Medical Marijuana NJ, as a local union we have learned an extraordinary amount about the cannabis industry, but never experienced the full “retail” side of it. So, as per our intentions with the participation of our National UFCW Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, we visited an adult-use cannabis dispensary called Jenny’s Dispensary to see how the entire process functions on the retail side of cannabis, which is the UFCW’s core industry. Even better, Jenny’s Dispensary is a unionized cannabis dispensary represented by the UFCW, specifically UFCW Local 711.
The Local 152 Representatives entered Jenny’s Dispensary unsure of what to expect. Despite all of our preconceived ideas of what a cannabis dispensary would be like, let me be very clear: we left amazed and impressed. As soon as you enter the building, you feel like you just walked into a modern day doctor’s office. You’re greeted by security, who assists you in signing in with a worker. We learned that many cannabis employees who work security-side of the industry are either retired police officers or veterans. After signing in (which requires a state I.D. or Passport to prove you are 21), you are told to take a seat and wait for an employee to summon you.
While waiting, the dispensary has magazines–again, like a doctor’s office–sprawled out on a fancy glass table, but these magazines were all about cannabis – the industry, health, travel, etc. It was at this time that the Local truly saw what this industry will grow to become. Keep in mind, this part of the building has no cannabis; in fact, you truly do feel like you are sitting in a medical office waiting to be called back for your appointment. After approximately 5 minutes, we were called back and given a fresh bottle of water while the “Budtender” showcased all the different types of cannabis products they had in stock.
Now I know the first question you all have is, “What did they have?” Let’s put it this way: if you can think of it, they had it! Jenny’s Dispensary had different types of strains of flower cannabis, oils and cooking supplies for infused cannabis meals, lotions, body creams, shampoos and other beauty products, candies, and so much more–it blew our mind. But perhaps most impressive thing about the visit was the sheer amount of knowledge, dedication, enthusiasm, and without a doubt, utmost professionalism of the workers.
When we left the tour of the retail side, Union Representative Mike Thompson’s first comment was, “Even though the products were very interesting to learn about, I can’t get over the professionalism and knowledge these UFCW Dispensary workers have about the products and cannabis itself.” Personally, I was thoroughly impressed with the salesmanship of working in the retail side of cannabis, and thought it must be like walking into a Strawbridge’s or Macy’s 50 years ago. This UFCW Budtender was dressed professionally and carried himself as if I had just walked into a 5 star restaurant. He walked us around knowing everything about the products they had in stock and spoke of it as if it was a fine wine. It truly is a craft, and it is what retail used to be – customer-friendly, with enthusiastic UFCW members who get treated with respect.
The cannabis industry is slated to create three hundred thousand (300,000) jobs by 2020, with revenues totaling above 24 billion dollars by 2024. In New Jersey alone, it is slated that if we have Adult-Use Cannabis, within the first year sales would bring in around 1 billion dollars in total revenue and up to 500 million dollars in taxes, which could help the working class of New Jersey. These cannabis jobs could all be UFCW Local 152 members, which would create new careers that will provide long-lasting economic freedom to people who are living paycheck to paycheck. If UFCW Local 152 represented New Jersey Cannabis Workers, it would guarantee that these employees would have not only the activism and legal support of the UFCW, but that their jobs are secure from political interference as well.
This visit to a UFCW-represented dispensary truly was an experience that shows that we as a Union, as a Local, and as a movement must act now to welcome these “science-based” retail careers into our UFCW Local 152 family. We must encourage all of the workers who are employed by non-union medical cannabis dispensaries in New Jersey to reach out and join our family so that they are treated with the same respect as anyone else who wakes up each morning to make a living for themselves and their loved ones. As a local union, we must fight so that these workers are treated with the same respect as their unionized counterparts in Nevada.
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Below: Get an inside look at Jenny’s Dispensary in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Stay up to date on the changes to the medical and recreational cannabis laws in our area by visiting our Cannabis Campaign page.
If you know anyone who works in the cannabis industry that is interested in joining our union please contact Chad Brooks at email@example.com or fill out our completely confidential Union Interest Form.