Cresco Labs in Joliet approves first union contract

Union represents over 180 workers at Joliet cultivation center

Over 180 workers at Cresco Labs in Joliet voted late last month to ratify a union contract with one of the largest marijuana companies operating in Illinois.

The group ratified the first marijuana union contract in the state, according to a news release. The workers at the cultivation center are represented by Local 881 of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

The workers and Cresco negotiated the contract for nearly a year. The union rejected the company’s first proposal in November, according to the release.

In the final contract, the union was successful in earning a wage increase, more paid leave, a higher 401k match, lower health insurance rates, an increased employee product discount, and stronger seniority protection language.

“I am incredibly proud of the Cresco Joliet employees for showing unity in the face of adversity,” said Jessica Olson, a Joliet facility coordinator, in the release. “It has been a long journey for this contract. This is the first cannabis contract in the state of Illinois, and I am honored to be a part of history.”

The workers at Cresco voted to unionize a year ago, not long after recreational marijuana became legal in the state of Illinois. They were the first workers in the Illinois marijuana industry to unionize and join with 34,000 other Local 881 members.

The two sides conducted much of the negotiations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Negotiating a first contract under normal conditions can be brutal, but the added challenges of a pandemic, makes this ratification even more impressive,” said Steven Powell, president of Local 881 UFCW, in the release. “We knew Cresco workers had the courage and determination to make this a reality.”

Powell added that marijuana workers around the state have been watching how the Cresco Joliet workers have “fought and organized” for the union contract.

“We know this will encourage other cannabis workers to join the movement to improve this industry,” he said in the release.

The union argued their workers are setting “positive precedents” for the entire Illinois marijuana industry.

They also argued that the intent of the state law legalizing recreational marijuana was clearly aimed creating well-paying union jobs in the industry. The union argued that because the industry produced over $1 billion in sales last year, it can afford to improve workers’ wages and benefits.

Local 881 is among the largest affiliates of the UFCW and represents thousands of marijuana workers in multiple states.

Alex Ortiz

Alex Ortiz is a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet. Originally from Romeoville, Ill., he joined The Herald-News in 2017 and mostly covers Will County government, politics, education and more. He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master's degree from Northwestern University.