WeedMD staff may be the first in the cannabis industry to unionize

Published Apr 11, 2020 01:00 p.m. ET
iStock / TimArbaev

A Southwestern Ontario cannabis company is looking to go down in history books for far more than growing weed. Staff at WeedMD could be the first Canadian cannabis company to unionize its workers. Does this mean the green space is becoming a hotter commodity?

Who is signing the union cards

WeedMD has its headquarters in London, Ontario, Canada, where the company has more than 200 workers, stretched out through its operations. These operations are located in Aylmer, Bowmanville, and Strathroy. The employees at these locations have been introduced to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union by being asked to sign the union cards. The past three weeks have seen a flurry of activity regarding the union card signing.

What is a union

Employees working in the cannabis industry are looking at the benefits a union can offer to them, by asking questions like what is a union, and how will a union benefit the employees of WeedMD?

Here are some of the benefits of a union:

  1. Members can collectively meet to negotiate issues that affect them and the job with management

  2. Issues including benefits, wages, and working conditions

  3. Members would have a legally binding document

  4. Provides members with a stronger voice when addressing management

  5. Provides a better place to work

Who is in charge of running the union

A union is democratic at all of the levels within it. The members elect a negotiating committee who represent the whole membership. Unions like to project the feelings of unionized togetherness, and many believe in standing together to make a difference.

The numbers are growing

Marijuana reform in Canada has set a president for other countries around the world. Canada passed legislation for the legalization of cannabis for adults in 2018. With this legislation came the increased market for workers in all aspects of the cannabis space. StatsCan has reported over 10,000 people who work for federally licensed cannabis producers. About 60% of these numbers are workers in the cultivation, harvesting, and processing positions. It is presumed that after WeedMD's union membership drive, many of these workers will look towards initiating unions within their workspace.

Significance of a union at WeedMD

The union involved in the membership drive at WeedMD represents over 250,000 workers throughout Canada. UFCW is looking to negotiate a contract with the company in the next very near future. Depending on the people who consume cannabis for medicinal and recreational use will want to purchase from ethical employers such as WeedMD. The union is counting on public pressure to move this company to sit down and talk with them.

There are approximately 10,000 cannabis workers across Canada, of which 2000 are in the southwestern region of Ontario. This region seems to be the niche for cannabis space. Some refer to the area as the cannabis belt. The proximity to the 400 series highways and the abundance of farmland may be the magnet that draws the cannabis sector to this area today.

Employee grievances

Interestingly the WeedMD’s spokesperson fully supports all workers’ rights to organize but denies any of the union's claims. Some of which involved grievances about:

  • health and safety
  • elevated carbon monoxide levels with-in the grow rooms
  • spraying of pesticides on plants while workers are present
  • the firing of an employee for organizing union drive
Bernie Sanders encourages cannabis workers to unionize

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