The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union announced employees of the medical cannabis company Verano NJ at Zen Leaf will become UFCW members.
Two of their chapters, Local 152 and Local 360 have been working on it. Zen Leaf Workers decided to organize to ensure their rights are protected. Union membership also ensures Verano NJ employees have a voice in developing and maintaining high operating and management standards.
UFCW representatives described the process as open and collaborative and noted Verano NJ’s engagement. Currently, the company holds a permit to cultivate and process medical cannabis in New Jersey, employing around 80 people. Recently it held a series of community job fairs to grow its workforce.
“Everyone wins when a mutually respectful, union-business relationship exists,” said Local 152 representative Hugh Giordano. “This agreement extends our commitment to employees in this exciting young industry, and it will assist Verano NJ in accomplishing its goals in a way that benefits host communities.”
Giordano has been an advocate for legalization for some time.
UFCW Local 152 operates at the forefront of regional efforts to work with employees and business owners in the cannabis industry.
“Nationally, UFCW represents the interests of thousands of cannabis industry workers,” said Local 360 representative John Powers.
They have worked hard to organize workers in the cannabis industry, having started the process early.
“We’ve helped craft Labor Peace Agreements and Collective Bargaining Agreements that improve working conditions, enable the industry to gain support and legitimacy, and set the high standards consumers demand,” Powers said. “This choice, by Verano NJ employees, recognizes the positive impact unions have on employees, their families, and the places where they work and live.”
Verano NJ opened Zen Leaf in Elizabeth last June. It was the 10th dispensary location that opened in New Jersey. Verano NJ was among the six companies awarded a license in 2018. Only Justice Grown in Ewing and MPX’s “Be” in Atlantic City have yet to open their primary locations from that round. Verano is a Multi-State Operator (MSO) with locations in six states and Puerto Rico.
Verano NJ Unionizes
Giordano said Verano NJ was supportive of the worker’s right to organize. He greatly praised them.
“The executive team was professional and supportive,” he said.
“To me, Verano is setting the standards of how the NJ cannabis industry should run itself,” he said.
However, people feel about other parts of the business; they did a very good job,” Giordano said. “They stand by their message of creating good jobs.”
He said a union contract guarantees good wages, medical benefits, and a retirement plan.
“The workers are excited. They’re looking at it as a career now,” Giordano said.
He noted it will certainly reduce turnover which can be a problem.
Verano NJ workers were especially interested in forming a union to help guarantee standards to ensure patient care.
Giordano, a fierce advocate for worker’s rights, praised Verano NJ’s actions during the union campaign.
“They wanted to do it,” he said.
Giordano noted they already have a diverse workforce of women, people of color, and seniors.
He said that Garden State Dispensary (GSD) was the first company to unionize with the UFCW.
A unionization campaign is not usually an amicable affair. Workers often have great grievances, and companies go out of their way to stop a union from forming.
Founded in 2006, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 152 has 14,000 members across New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland.