Zen Leaf in Phoenix becomes fourth dispensary in Arizona to unionize

The wave of unionization that recently swept through the cannabis industry in Arizona isn’t slowing down yet.

On September 13, budtenders at a Zen Leaf dispensary in Phoenix became the latest workers to join a union, voting overwhelmingly to unionize. Employees at the location — Zen Leaf Local Joint on East University Drive — filed an election petition with the National Labor Relations Board on July 14, and ballots were counted last week. Ten of the 17 eligible workers participated in the election. They voted 9 to 1 to form a union.

Budtenders and other Local Joint workers will be represented by United Food and Commercial Workers, a union with more than one million members among cannabis retailers, grocery stores, offices and airports. The union celebrated the victory, write on social media that Local Joint employees “will begin negotiating a contract to improve working conditions, raise wages and secure their future in the industry.”

The dispensary becomes the fourth in Arizona to vote to unionize.

Steve Mazeika, director of communications for Zen Leaf’s parent company, Chicago-based Verano Holdings, said in a statement to Phoenix New Times that the company looks forward to continuing to serve its customers. He did not directly address the union vote.

“We are grateful to our Zen Leaf team members, patients and adult customers, and look forward to continuing to serve our wide variety of quality cannabis products at our six Phoenix-area Zen Leaf locations,” Mazeika said.

UFCW has recently focused on organizing budtenders in Arizona and the United States as part of its Cannabis Workers Rising project.

In June, workers at the Curaleaf dispensary on Central Avenue in downtown became the first dispensary workers in Arizona vote to unionize. In July, staff members at a Zen Leaf dispensary in Chandler also voted to form a union.

In August, a second Curaleaf site – the dispensary on Camelback Road and 10th Street – voted to form a union. Curaleaf contested the elections at the Camelback and Central Avenue locations, and the proceedings are still ongoing.

So far, Zen Leaf has not participated in union elections at its two sites. That means the East University Drive dispensary is the fourth in the state to vote for a union — and only the second to be certified. Each dispensary negotiates which employees are included in the union, but managers, supervisors, guards and some office workers are excluded at all four stores.

Verano entered the Arizona cannabis market in March 2021. With nearly 100 dispensaries and operations in 13 states, it is one of the largest cannabis companies in the country, declaring $738 million of turnover in 2021.

Six clinics run by Verano unionized last year: two in the Valley, three in Chicago and one in Maryland, according to the NLRB.

Although Zen Leaf did not participate in union elections, the organizing campaigns did not always go smoothly. Earlier this month, former and current employees of the dispensary brand’s Chandler site staged a protest against what they claimed were a series of retaliatory firings by Zen Leaf. The company fired several workers supporting the union on Labor Day and alleged they had been drinking on the job, the workers said. Phoenix New Times.

Zen Leaf has repeatedly denied firing employees for union activity. “We respect the right of our team members to choose to be represented by a union,” Mazeika said. new times after the September 8 demonstration.

Verano faces eight open cases in which UFCW alleged unfair labor practices at Phoenix and Chandler, including worker retaliation, coercion and termination for organizing, as well as three ongoing cases involving sites in Chicago. , according to the NLRB.

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