In a milestone moment, the employees at Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center in Portsmouth, Rhode Island became the first cannabis dispensary workers in the state to unionize after an overwhelming majority voted to join United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 328 (UFCW) by a vote of 21 to 1.
The newly-organized team at Greenleaf includes 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 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 and securing a better and brighter future for all at Greenleaf.
Contributing factors leading workers to organize include the company’s sudden elimination of the employee incentive program, as well as a significant reduction of employee benefits. Workers also cited their lack of power in decision-making and often go unheard when concerns are brought to ownership. The staff at Greenleaf also came together in hopes of securing an equitable future in an industry that is seeing rapid changes and growth.
The workers released a joint statement after the victory stating, “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.”
After filing for their election in February, Greenleaf workers have received strong support from their patients at the dispensary. They also received support from 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. The statement from Reclaim RI read, “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.
Sam Marvin, Director of Organizing at UFCW Local 328 said after the results, “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.”
Greenleaf has now become the second unionized cannabis business in the state of 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 6 new compassion centers and looks further at legalizing adult recreational use, the efforts of Greenleaf workers and Local 328 should serve as an example for how to guarantee equity and opportunity for workers in this field.