Trulieve workers vote to unionize, score ‘historic win’ in Arizona | Phoenix New Times
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Trulieve workers vote to unionize, score ‘historic win’ in Arizona

The last time agricultural workers in the state unionized was in 2000.
Trulieve employees gathered on Thursday outside the company's facility on East Magnolia Street to celebrate the results of a vote to unionize.
Trulieve employees gathered on Thursday outside the company's facility on East Magnolia Street to celebrate the results of a vote to unionize. TJ L'Heureux
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Employees at Trulieve Magnolia’s production facility in central Phoenix on Thursday became the first agricultural cannabis workers in Arizona to unionize.

In a 37-4 vote, the workers of the notoriously smelly pot facility on East Magnolia Street near Interstate 10 decided to join United Food and Commercial Workers Local 99.

The vote also marked the second union election to be administered by Arizona's Agricultural Employment Relations Board, which was established in 1993. The last time agricultural workers in the state unionized was in 2000.

UFCW Local 99 is Arizona’s largest private sector union, representing 25,000 workers at Fry’s Food Stores, Safeway and other employers throughout the southwest.

“Today, employees of Trulieve Magnolia have proved that no matter the obstacle, when working people stand together in solidarity and demand better for themselves and their families, there is nothing they cannot achieve,” said Jim McLaughlin, president of UFCW Local 99. “As we celebrate this historic win for workers, I would also like to commend AERB executive secretary Lisa James and the entire board for their commitment to ensuring a free and fair election for all eligible employees.”

After the election, UFCW Local 99 planned to hold a press conference for workers to speak with reporters. However, Trulieve reportedly posted a note on a workplace bulletin board reminding employees, “Please do not interact with the media directly by providing quotes or comments.”

In lieu of a press conference, the workers gathered outside the facility and celebrated among themselves and with UFCW Local 99 organizers as members of the press stood by.

Trulieve has seven days to file objections, which will be heard by the agricultural labor board. If the company does not file objections, after seven days, it is obligated by state law to negotiate a contract with the union.

Phil Buck, a Trulieve spokesperson, did not immediately respond to a Phoenix New Times email inquiry about whether the company plans to file objections.
click to enlarge Trulieve Magnolia workers vote to unionize
Martin Hernandez, organizing director of UFCW Local 99, talks to Trulieve Magnolia workers following their vote to unionize on Thursday.
TJ L'Heureux

‘This is the first and definitely not the last’

Martin Hernandez, organizing director of UFCW Local 99, is confident the vote in favor of unionizing will be difficult to dispute for the company.

“In this case, I don’t see how they could come up with anything bogus. We hope that they don’t do it just to delay the process,” Hernandez told workers who had gathered outside the facility. “We hope the message you guys sent to them is strong enough to say, ‘Let’s go to the bargaining table and negotiate the contract.’”

Hernandez also added that while the union and workers want a strong contract, they also want to see the company grow.

The employees who participated in the vote have job classifications within the Cultivation and Post-Harvest departments.

Arizona law defines an agricultural worker who can organize as an employee who is at least 16 and has been employed for a company for at least six months.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, many agricultural workers have seasonal schedules, and some move from location to location as crops ripen. The transient nature of the job can be an obstacle for workers wishing to unionize.

Because workers at cannabis production facilities are often permanent employees, it makes them rare candidates for agricultural unionization.

“Cannabis workers have the ability to bring light to the way that agricultural workers are classified and the way that they’re forced to seek union representation,” UFCW spokesperson Drake Ridge said. “We’re hoping that this moves the ball forward in allowing workers in agriculture and all other sectors to be able to have a strong voice at work.”

Ridge said the union plans to continue organizing agricultural cannabis workers, adding that the union has organized eight different dispensaries in Arizona and Utah.

“We are working to make sure that any worker that wants union representation has the help to do so,” Ridge said. “This is the first and definitely not the last.”
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