First Arizona dispensary union contract won by Zen Leaf workers | Phoenix New Times

Zen Leaf workers win Arizona’s first cannabis industry union contract

After voting to unionize in 2022, Zen Leaf workers secured a four-year contract with pay raises, paid time off and a 401(k).
Workers at a second Zen Leaf dispensary in Phoenix have voted to unionize.
Workers at a second Zen Leaf dispensary in Phoenix have voted to unionize. Katya Schwenk
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On Tuesday, workers at Phoenix metro dispensaries Zen Leaf Chandler and Local Joint by Zen Leaf signed a collective bargaining agreement with their employer, becoming the first cannabis industry employees in Arizona to do so. Sixty-two workers are covered by the contract.

While employees at several Valley dispensaries have voted to unionize, the Zen Leaf workers are the first to ratify a contract with their employer. According to a press release from United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 99, which represents the workers, the contract lasts four years and includes guaranteed wage increases, seven paid holidays, paid time off, paid bereavement leave and a 401(k).

The UFCW said it reached a tentative contract agreement earlier this month with Zen Leaf's parent company, Chicago-based Verano Holdings. Last year, Verano made more than $938 million in revenue, according to its website. UFCW has helped organize workers at five of the company’s 140 retail locations nationwide.

“With guaranteed wage increases and seniority-based promotions, workers at Zen Leaf can finally plan for their futures and forge a career path in the industry they helped build,” UFCW Local 99 President Jim McLaughlin said in the press release. “This goes to show that Arizona’s cannabis industry works best when workers have a seat at the table.”

The contract was years in the making. The employees at the Chandler location voted to unionize in July 2022, while workers at Local Joint in Phoenix followed suit that September. The dispensaries were two of the first four to unionize in Arizona.

The road to the contract wasn’t without controversy. After Chandler worker Marieleigh Santoyo was fired on Labor Day in 2022, she claimed her dismissal was retaliation for her organizing efforts and critiques of the dispensary’s policies and low wages. A supervisor claimed she was fired for violating company policy.

There are still seven other groups of cannabis workers that have unionized but have not yet obtained a contract, including staff at three Phoenix Curaleaf dispensaries and Sunday Goods in Tempe. Additionally, workers at the Trulieve Magnolia cultivation facility unionized in January, becoming the first group of cannabis agriculture workers in Arizona to unionize and the second group of agricultural workers to unionize in state history.
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