State Senator Rachel Ventura issued a statement of support for the employees of two RISE marijuana stores in Joliet, IL who are currently on strike over unfair labor practices.
“The Cannabis industry is generating record profits in Illinois and workers deserve to share in of the wealth that they create,” said Ventura (D-Joliet), referencing Illinois’ $1.5 Billion in cannabis sales for FY 2022. “Working families are struggling across Illinois while companies like RISE make enormous profits. It doesn’t have to be this way. I hope that both sides are able to negotiate a mutually beneficial contract that enables these workers to better support their families.”
Teamsters Local 777 went on strike Wednesday at two RISE marijuana stores in Joliet after three unsuccessful negotiating meetings. Union leaders are attempting to negotiate wages and retirement benefits and have stated there is no agreement as of yet on either of the issues.
Teamster General President Sean O’Brien relayed the following message to cannabis workers on social media: “We’re fighting to turn this industry into what it needs to be: long term well paid careers. No more low wages, no more high turnover, no more disrespect. Teamsters stand with you.”
Additionally, the union stated that the RISE stores told their employees to remove their Teamsters buttons while negotiating. Workers voted to unionize last year and have been negotiating their first contract.
“Unfortunately, this isn’t the first company we’ve heard that has delayed contract negotiations after a union has been voted on,” said Ventura. “We need to encourage companies to negotiate in good faith in a timely manner.” Ventura is encouraging other community members and elected officials in Will County to support the workers, not cross the picket line, and join them in solidarity.
“I’m on strike because of how cannabis is grown and sold by RISE. We all have our different reasons for being out here,” said Christopher Guardo, a Joliet resident and RISE employee since the company opened their doors. “RISE is not using the safest practices to grow our product. We see excessive mold because the product is not cured properly. Instead of hanging and drying it at the proper humidity levels, they nitrogen freeze the cannabis and it is packaged prematurely, creating moldy products.” Guardo had been promised multiple promotions to shift supervisor and yet three years later he is still earning $17 an hour as a patient care specialist.
In Fiscal Year 2022, Illinois cannabis sales generated $466.8 million in state taxes on $1.5 billion in total sales. Illinois total dispensary sales reached over three billion in total over the last three years. One RISE store in Joliet employs approximately 50 individuals. Several have quit because of working conditions and low pay.