The South Bay area, home to the city of San Jose, is now unveiling its first unionized cannabis company. Generally speaking, unionized jobs in all industries provide a slew of workers’ benefits including better pay, collective bargaining, job security, advice, support and even employer benefits.
Per an announcement on Aug. 16 at San Jose City Hall, MedMen and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union have entered into a partnership. The collective bargaining agreement includes several incentives for MedMen San Jose’s employees. The benefits include wages that are $3 higher than California minimum wage, plus two weeks of vacation, 40 percent discounts for employees and time-and-a-half pay during holiday work.
“The partnership between UFCW 5 and MedMen in Northern California is the type of partnership UFCW leadership envisioned when we became the only union in California to endorse Prop. 64 in 2016,” UFCW 5 Director of Strategic Campaign Jim Araby told CULTURE. “UFCW 5 is glad to partner with industry leaders like MedMen, who are committed to set high standards for their workers on wages, benefits and training, and we hope that many other cannabis businesses that aspire to be leaders follow the example set by MedMen in San Jose and Seaside. We believe it is better to work with your workers to grow the industry than to try go at it alone.”
The dispensary, at 1075 N 10th St., is located near Santa Clara University and the heart of downtown San Jose. Full-time employees at the San Jose MedMen location will be guaranteed 40 hours per week, and part-time employees will be guaranteed 20 hours per week. In addition, both full-time and part-time workers will receive full benefits—something that is rare in the state of California for many companies. Some of the benefits include shares in company stock.
“The partnership between UFCW 5 and MedMen in Northern California is the type of partnership UFCW leadership envisioned when we became the only union in California to endorse Prop. 64 in 2016.”
While groundbreaking, providing labor agreements is a requirement for certain cannabis companies. Per the 2017 Medicinal and Adult Use of Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, labor peace agreements are required for any cannabis business with 20 or more employees if they want to obtain a state license.
Furthermore, MedMen was under pressure to make improvements during the past year. Last December, for instance, a group of former MedMen employees filed a class action lawsuit for alleged labor law violations. Following that debacle, MedMen’s former CFO James Parker filed a lawsuit based on several complaints—with allegations ranging from everything from bank fraud to sexist business practices. MedMen’s dominance in the legal cannabis market has thrust its practices into the spotlight, under great scrutiny. But with the implementation of agreements to support workers’ rights, the company is taking a much bigger focus on employees.
Beyond the wage protections and benefits, unionization can help lead the battle for social equity in the cannabis space, with representation from everyone. “UFCW 5 is committed to organizing workers in the cannabis industry that will not only lead to good jobs and a career in the cannabis industry, but ensure that workers [are] at ‘the table,’” Araby added.
The UFCW was launched clear back in 2007, and moved into the cannabis sphere in 2011. Since then, bargaining agreements have been helping workers across the U.S. In total, the UFCW now boasts around 10,000 workers in the cannabis industry as union members in 14 states. With MedMen joining the ranks, the cannabis company behemoth is now much more appealing to employees who want full benefits and wage incentives.