Illinois Cannabis Workers Unionize Claiming Unfair Labor Practices

Cannabis industry workers at Green Thumb Industries in Rock Island, Illinois have unionized amid accusations of unfair labor practices, harassment, retaliation, and unlawful intimidation.

Full story after the jump.

Workers at Rock Island, Illinois medical cannabis company Green Thumb Industries have formed a union amid claims of unfair labor practices, harassment, retaliation, and unlawful intimidation, the Quad City Times reports. The workers told city officials on Monday that the company refuses to recognize the union.

Kyle Meyer, who has worked at GTI two years, told the Times that the employees “ran a clean campaign” to form the union and asked for recognition from the company on October 10 but company brass never got back to the employees, despite notices.

“For months, my coworkers and I listened to complaining from managers, supervisors and coworkers about losing benefits, having promised raises unfulfilled and a general lack of organization, and that’s when we decided to form a union.” – Meyer, to the Times

In response, several aldermen are asking the city to stop supporting companies that break the law with tax breaks. In all, GTI is set to receive $835,000 in tax breaks from the city after the City Council unanimously approved a $775,000 incentive package in December and increased the package by $60,000 in August. The incentives will help the company double its Rock Island facility to 66,000 square feet and hire another 100 workers; currently, there are more than 50 employees at the facility.

Since October 10, four complaints have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board against GTI by the Teamsters union on behalf of the workers. The Teamsters represent 1.4 million members. The complaints allege that employees were illegally polled and interrogated about their union organizing, according to documents obtained by the Times through a Freedom of Information Law request.

Ald. Dylan Parker said it infuriated him that a company that was violating the law was also getting tax breaks.

“If you’re going to be harassing employees, if you’re going to be violating labor laws, you’re not getting tax money from Rock Island citizens, so I would request your support on this,” he told his colleagues, the report says.

Mayor Mike Thoms said the council “didn’t hear the other side’s point of view” and that “it’s not the city’s role to intervene in a private businesses like that.”

“It’s a private industry; it’s their business. Not the city’s,” Thoms told the Times. “The business has lived up to its promise on the incentives by adding jobs and adding capital to their building and that’s what the city asked for.”

On October 12, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a law requiring cannabis retailers enter into “labor peace agreements” which requires them to make a deal with a formal labor union and prohibiting managers from interfering with union activities. In exchange, organizers won’t encourage labor strikes.

Only New York also has cannabis industry labor peace agreements codified by law. Illinois legalized cannabis for adult use last year. Sales are expected Jan. 1.

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