Report: Cannabis Helped Drive Union Participation Among Retail Workers in 2021

The cannabis industry helped drive unionization efforts for retail workers in 2021, according to data from the National Labor Relations Board.

Full story after the jump.

Cannabis workers voted in 26 National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) union representation elections last year and sided with the union in 18 of them, according to a review of the NLRB year-end election figures outlined by Bloomberg Law. The approvals represent a net increase of 14 wins in 2020 and 16 wins over 2019, the report says.

The wins account for nearly two-thirds – 62% – of the retail industry’s unionization gains from 2019 to 2020. In 2021, 13 of the unions’ cannabis industry wins occurred in Illinois, which instituted a labor peace agreement for the cannabis industry when it approved broad legalization reforms, according to Bloomberg.

The successful union votes in the cannabis industry were key to unions having more success organizing retail industry workplaces than they have had in almost 20 years. In all, there were 60 successful union organizing attempts among retail workers last year – levels not seen since 2001 (81) to 2004 (76), according to NLRB data outlined by Bloomberg.

From 2019 to 2021, unions membership decreased in the finance, mining, services, transportation, communications, utilities, and wholesale sectors, but the construction, manufacturing, and retail sectors saw increases in membership. The retail sector saw overall gains of 75%, while manufacturing saw a modest 5% increase in union membership and construction saw about a 10% increase.

The cannabis industry will likely help drive union membership in the coming years as well – both New York and New Jersey’s adult-use cannabis law require businesses to enter labor peace agreements with their employees but neither state has launched its adult-use market.

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