Employees at a Somerset County medical dispensary have joined a growing number of workers in New Jersey’s cannabis landscape who have opted to unionize.
According to the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 360, workers at Valley Wellness in Raritan voted to organize as members of the union, which represents hundreds of thousands of cannabis industry workers in dispensaries, labs, manufacturing, processing, delivery and grow facilities across the U.S.
In a March 22 statement, UFCW Local 360’s director of organizing Hugh Giordano said, “Valley Wellness, and its owner Sarah Trent, have already proven to be a great addition to the growing New Jersey cannabis community. We’re looking forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship with what is one of the first stand-alone dispensary operators in the state, a company that provides a refreshing alternative to the large number of multistate operators here.”
Besides being the first medical cannabis dispensary in Somerset County, Valley Wellness is a woman business owned enterprise (WBOE) and one of the state’s few ventures not run by an MSO. Valley Wellness is currently licensed to sell only medical-use cannabis but is in the process of seeking state approval to expand into the adult-use market.
Trent is also known for her commitment to promoting responsible use of the product, as well as creating an educated workforce in the budding industry. In March 2020, she founded NJ Cannabis Certified, a 15-hour educational certificate program taught virtually in conjunction with eight community colleges across the state that is geared toward those interested in working in the industry or wanting to learn more about cannabis.
“Sarah and her team clearly recognize the role professional employees play in driving long-term success,” added Giordano. “So, it was a real vote of confidence in the future of both the company and the industry when those same professional employees carefully considered, and then selected, the career-supporting benefits that come with joining Local 360.”
Trent declined to comment to NJBIZ regarding unionization efforts at her dispensary.
When New Jersey launched its recreational cannabis industry in April 2022, the law included pro-labor provisions requiring companies to negotiate in good faith if their employees want union representation.
In recent months, workers at some of the largest cannabis companies in New Jersey, including Curaleaf, Ascend, The Cannabis Dispensary, Harmony Dispensary, Verano and AYR Wellness, have also organized.
“It is a very positive development. After a blockbuster 2022, this year is continuing the trend of votes in favor of unionizing,” said Sam Ferraino Jr., president, UFCW Local 360. “This vote is not just in support of unions organizing, it’s in the power of unions to positively impact businesses, families and communities, while maintaining high operating standards powered by a diverse and skilled workforce.”