Ascend Dispensary workers in Springfield vote to unionize, become 4th group to join

The mail-in ballots — counted over Zoom on the unofficial smoker’s holiday of 4/20 — were overwhelmingly in favor of joining Local 881 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents employees in Illinois’ booming pot industry, the union said in a statement.

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A customer holds a sample bud of marijuana at an Oregon dispensary. | AP Photo/Ryan Kang

AP file photo

Employees at Ascend Dispensary in downtown Springfield voted to unionize Tuesday, becoming the fourth group to join the union for cannabis workers in Illinois since the state legalized pot in 2020.

The mail-in ballots — counted over Zoom on the unofficial smoker’s holiday of 4/20 — were overwhelmingly in favor of joining Local 881 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents employees in Illinois’ booming pot industry, the union said in a statement.

“I hope that this win can be a positive step forward for everybody.This victory will provide workers a voice in the workplace and a future in this industry,said Eric Craddock, an Ascend dispensary agent.

The vote, which is expected to be ratified next week, will help workers fight for “better wages, benefits, increased Covid-19 protections, and a voice in their workplace,” the union said.

Ascend Wellness Holdings owns six dispensaries in Illinois, making it the sixth-largest retailer in the state, according to their website.

“Illinois cannabis sales topped $1 billion in 2020. These companies can afford to respect their workers!Respect and decency are not expensive business practices. This industry should be creating stable careers, not operating cannabis sweatshops,” said Steve Powell, Local 881 UFCW President.

Ascend did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Ascend employees in downtown Springfield have joined Windy City Cannabis workers, who also recently voted to unionize, and Sunnyside dispensary employees in Lake View in joining Local 881, the union said. Workers at a Cresco cultivation center in Joliet are also members.

Ascend and Windy City Cannabis workers are still working to put together a union contract, while Sunnyside and Cresco employees recently had theirs ratified, the union said.

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