Employees at DC Holistic Wellness establishes the very first marijuana workers union in the capital, said WAMU. The move toward unionization of the workers stemmed from the encouragement of the dispensary’s owner and employer.

Thirteen of the dispensary’s employees formed the union with the help of United Food & Commercial Workers (UFWC) Local 400 as representative. As a result, they were able to sign five-year contracts complete with a base pay of $16 per hour. The contract also includes three raises per year, with one of the raises matching 50 cents to $1 every six months. The compensation plan mandated by the new contract also includes various benefits.

Norbert Pickett, the owner of DC Holistic Wellness, is pleased to announce the store’s progress. He said, “We are particularly proud to be the first fully unionized cannabis shop in the District offering employees greater pay, paid time off, and paid holidays, as well as retirement plans, additional accredited training, and health care insurance.”

Cannabis Union in DC Emerges

Pickett played a significant role in the establishment of the union, especially as he suggested the idea to his employees. In fact, he was the one to reach other to the UFCW by contacting Jeff Ferro to help ignite the process.

To clarify, WAMU explained that Pickett detached from the process and allowed his workers to objectively decide whether or not they want to pursue this effort. This complies with the National Labor Relations Act that prohibits employers from being involved in its employees’ unionization process.

The formation of the union is seen as a milestone for DC Holistic Wellness’ employees and the district’s cannabis industry, as a whole. Robert Pizzi, the dispensary’s metric analyst, is optimistic about the effect of this union on the business landscape. He said, “This, in many ways, is one small step for the cannabis industry and a giant leap for workers everywhere.”

The owner of the one-year-old dispensary stated that this development is a step toward protecting his employees. Moreover, this gives current and future workers who typically did not have the opportunity to work in the industry such as the Black community.

First fully Black-owned dispensary

Aside from raising the first cannabis union in DC, DC Holistic Wellness is also known as the first marijuana store in the district owned by a Black individual, said WUSA. Regarding this achievement, Pickett said in a press release, “We’re proud to the first Black-owned, operated and financed medical cannabis dispensary in DC.”

According to the owner, 99% of the dispensary workers are minorities, specifically women and people of color. This became a factor in the forging the union contract, which mandates that 35% of the staff must be minorities at any given moment.

Pickett is also looking forward to giving his workers access to free training and apprenticeships that can give them the leverage they need to compete in this economic climate. Such advantages are also geared toward leveling the ground for minorities, who have been victimized and targeted because of the plant. Many reports have shown that Black people suffered penalties and incarceration because of harsh marijuana laws.

Current DC Holistic Wellness general manager Bryan Jackson was able to find employment with the dispensary. He has been with the company since its launch in August 2019. Throughout his stay, he jumped from one role to another, from front desk receptionist to marketing staff, until he landed the managerial position.

With experience with horticulture, Jackson is now looking forward to becoming a master grower with specializations in cannabis and horticulture. He hopes to achieve this goal with the help of the free training and apprenticeship opportunities that the union contract opened up. Jackson is in the process of getting his UFCW 400 tags and is proud of joining the union.

The push for diversity and encouragement of unionization is part of Pickett’s goal to raise the bar of all dispensaries across the United States.

Unionization encouraged in the cannabis industry

Picket is not the only employer who has been welcoming of unions. According to UFCW Local 400 communications director Jonathan Williams, a lot of marijuana business owners “are very interested in union contracts.”

WAMU noted that such a positive attitude toward unionization is because employers also benefit from this transition. The report explained, “Recognizing a five-year contract lets them, for example, budget for salary increases and other operational costs.” Williams agrees, especially with the fact that unionized workers tend to have favorable compensation plans and benefits, which motivates them to stay with the company longer.

UFCW Local 400 currently represents 35,000 union members across various industries including retail, health care, food processing, service, and now cannabis. The organization is present in various states such as Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Tennessee, Washington, West Virginia, and Virginia, with the inclusion of the District of Columbia.

Regarding the unionization of DC Holistic Wellness, UFCW Local 400 president Mark Federici said, “In this emerging industry, it is critical that we establish the highest possible job standard, with living wages and comprehensive benefits.” Federici is also optimistic about the store’s development as the thirteen workers “have set a meaningful precedent for the cannabis industry in the District.”

Meanwhile, WUSA suggested that the current pandemic may be motivating workers in the cannabis industry to form unions.

Washington, DC’s cannabis market is currently soaring, with predictions anticipating a significant increase in sales in the next few years. Experts project that the district will reach a whopping $40 million by 2021, which will continue to increase for the next years. By 2024, sales are expected to triple up to $140 million.

Cannabis Union

The Bottom Line

The increasing success of the cannabis industry in DC is expected to continue. Along with this development, the very first unionization in the district with the help of DC Holistic Wellness is expected to have a positive impact in the city’s marijuana sector, as well as those in other states. Moreover, it is hoped to raise the standards for various organizations across many sectors.

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