Curaleaf Dispensary Worker in Gilbert Fired Over Unionizing Effort

Marijuana bidder Anissa Keane tried to get a union contract at her pharmacy in the Phoenix metro, but lost her job instead.

The 28-year-old wants his job back at the Curaleaf Dispensary in Gilbert and has an open case to do just that with the federal agency overseeing workers’ rights against the country’s largest marijuana dealer.

The Sun City resident filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board in October 2020, arguing that she was fired for organizing her colleagues on the job.

Curaleaf, a listed company based in Wakefield, Massachusetts, denied allegations that the former employee was fired for union efforts.

Keane said she was surprised her tenure at the company would be cut and efforts made to improve working conditions.

“We were not making a reasonable salary,” she said.

Marijuana bidders, who are retailers selling potty products to both patients and recreational users, earn an average of $ 14 an hour in Arizona, about $ 2 above the minimum wage, according to the wage crowdsourcing website Glassdoor.

Unlike most other retail stores, where the average receipts per. customer is under $ 100, the cost of smoking marijuana flower can be hundreds of dollars for the customers. And it typically requires making a lot of changes in cash.

Keane said she felt most of her colleagues were in favor of union, but fear was a motivating factor when it came to signing the petition.

“They were just afraid of losing their jobs when Curaleaf found out,” she said.

If Keane wins the administrative case, she could get her job back and continue to organize.

Curaleaf Arizona President Steve Cottrell declined to comment until the federal administrative judge has decided the case.

The Gilbert Dispensary staff member contacted United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 99 in Phoenix for assistance.

The cannabis workers industry is also unionizing in California. Employees from a place in Adelanto, owned by Israeli-run Tikun Olam, ratified their first contract with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters last month.

“I was interested in bringing this energy to Arizona,” Keane said.

The goal of a union is to get better hourly wages and benefits, and to have more control in the workplace – topics at the forefront during a global health pandemic like COVID-19. As the marijuana industry matures and grows as part of the overall economy, union efforts pick up speed.

“It’s a burgeoning industry and there’s a sense that a lot of profits are being made and it could and should be shared more with the workers,” said Michael Selmi, a work economist at Arizona State University with expertise in cannabis. industry.

Ironically, Arizona dispensers should be non-profit entities, voters decided.

Curaleaf operates nine locations across the valley with locations in Phoenix, Glendale, Gilbert and Youngtown. It has more than 100 operations nationwide.

The company has a track record of violating federal labor laws, according to legal applications. It interrogated, fired, and again responded to employees after they professionally organized its Hanover, Massachusetts, location in June 2020 labor board documents show.

Administrative Judge Ira Sandron at the NLRB ruled a year later that Curaleaf could not interfere in the employees’ organizational efforts.

Curaleaf was forced to post messages detailing that union efforts are legal, the judge ruled.

Employers can negotiate with employees seeking to organize “in good faith,” according to the NLRB. And they “can not force, intimidate, or simply monitor employees.

But that’s what happened to the Gilbert marijuana dispensary employee at Curaleaf, according to her complaint.

“I want to show my colleagues because I know how scared they were to organize that you can not let these companies bully you,” Keane said in an interview with Phoenix New Times. “I would love to go back in there and work another day.”

She was concerned about the lack of health and safety measures under COVID-19 at the pharmacy.
“The pandemic has obviously created some high-profile union organization in Arizona,” said Selmi, the researcher.

This is despite the fact that Arizona is a “right-to-work” state, which means employees do not have to join unions even if their workplace has a certified bargaining unit.

The first Corporate Starbucks store in Arizona can organize itself in Mesa. Starbucks locations at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport are already professionally organized. In general, however, there has not been a major uptick in union drives since the coronavirus pandemic began, he said.

“Working at home makes it a lot harder to organize, so that could be a dampener on the organization,” he said.

Despite Arizona laws, there is still plenty of union activity here, he said.

Keane, the Gilbert bidder, claims she was fired for missing $ 20 on her record at the end of the day. She was sent home for a week after the problem. “I knew they would fire me,” she said.

Curaleaf executives were unable to comment on the details of Keane’s dismissal due to company policy, but rejected her claims.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union tried to intervene in Keane’s federal labor case early last year.
It’s the same union that filed the lawsuit against Curaleaf in Massachusetts last year and won.

I can not comment on the Anissa case because that case is still open, “said Martin Hernandez, a spokesman for the UFCW’s Phoenix division.

The union has already seen “lots of cannabis workers” organize themselves successfully in other states.

“Here in Phoenix, we’ve been looking at this industry very closely,” Hernandez said. “This is an industry that is very generous in terms of profits. We feel that employees do not get much in return for the work they do in this delicate, difficult industry.”

While marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, Selmi, the economist, said this aspect should not interfere with union efforts in the valley and places like it.

“As long as the NLRB is willing to recognize dispensaries that are legal in states like Arizona, the process should be the same as it would be for any other type of business,” he said.

The federal agency has been significantly more active under the Biden administration than it was under the Trump administration, he said.

Keane, who has been waiting for a decision for months, hopes to see the activity soon. Meanwhile, she is working part-time for a pain management company that is closely associated with the marijuana industry.

Helping patients is why she joined the company in the first place.

“Our bottom line is to take care of the patients who need our product,” Keane said. “It’s unfortunate to see the corporatization of something I thought would exist solely to help other people.”

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