By David Spradlin and Jacques Loveall
SACRAMENTO, CA – Responsible players in California’s legal cannabis market are reimagining “business as usual” by paying workers a living wage and benefits, prioritizing their health, safety and job training, and ensuring equity and representation, as well as correcting the wrongs of a judicial system that didn’t always view the plant as beneficial and essential to public health.
Another essential component to putting people over profit? Partnering with organized labor, and cannabis retailer Perfect Union is leading the way in demonstrating why the industry should proactively align with unions.
From its inception in 2010, Perfect Union has hired locally, provided competitive compensation and benefits, and promoted from within. In 2017, we formalized these principles by being one of the first dispensaries in the nation to partner with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) to ensure employees and workplaces remain safe, healthy and thriving.
Partnering with UFCW enables the company to offer more professional, long-term careers in the cannabis industry, versus part-time jobs, as well as benefits, protection and ongoing training. The training, in particular, helps ensure that every dispensary guest receives the latest cannabis education to make safe and informed choices.
The last 18 months have created economic hardship and job insecurity for so many Californians. The partnership provides clear, fair and equitable policies that send an unequivocal signal to all workers: you are valued, appreciated and an absolute necessity for the success of the company.
Creativity, compassion and flexibility have also proven integral in supporting employees during these trying times, and Perfect Union has led the industry with early adoption of health and safety guidelines, provided hazard bonus pay for hourly employees and called for vaccine prioritization of essential cannabis workers.
By embracing organized labor and investing in their employees and communities, Perfect Union has experienced rapid growth and profitability, including the doubling of their retail footprint during a global pandemic.
Unionization can also open the door to innovative programs that boost economic prosperity in our neighborhoods, particularly for people of color and those negatively impacted by the nation’s damaging War on Drugs.
Perfect Union and UFCW are working to establish UFCW WorkForward, a High Road Training Partnership program that will expand and enhance the union’s training capacity to provide better high-road jobs for workers in California.
In addition, Perfect Union is also spearheading a California-registered apprenticeship program, known as the Cannabis Pharmacy Technician Apprenticeship Program, for retail workers that provides curriculum and on-the-job training in safety, packaging, patient and customer verification, and best business practices.
Unionization can help the cannabis industry create empowering workplaces and redefine the corporate standard of social responsibility. And through those efforts, the wellbeing of workers, dispensary guests, and communities will be enhanced.
Spradlin is CEO of Perfect Union, one of California’s leading vertically-integrated cannabis retailers. Loveall is an International Union Vice President and President of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), Local 8-Golden State, which represents 35,000 members in supermarkets, drug stores, food processing plants, wineries, distilleries, cannabis facilities and medical offices.