Congressman Donald Norcross

Representing the 1st District of New Jersey
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Reps. Norcross, Pocan Host “Organizing the Cannabis Industry” Roundtable with New Jersey Workers

Apr 26, 2022
News Release

Co-founders of the Congressional Labor Caucus, Congressman Donald Norcross (NJ-01) and Congressman Mark Pocan (WI-02), today hosted a roundtable discussion with United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 360 and cannabis workers to discuss workers’ rights and organizing the cannabis industry.

“I don’t know much about cannabis, but I know a lot about organizing workers – and from what I heard today, the wages of New Jersey’s cannabis workers do not reflect the skill and knowledge they bring to their job every day,” said Congressman Norcross, who co-founded the Congressional Labor Caucus with Congressman Pocan. “The federal prohibition on cannabis has clearly failed. There’s an entire industry, an entire workforce, that is now developing in this newly legal market. We have a responsibility as federal legislators to make sure workers in the cannabis industry start from a foundation of fair wages for fair work, just as everyone should.”

“Unionized industries who fairly compensate their workers tend to have lower turnover, better training, and are often more profitable,” said Congressman Pocan, who serves on the House Committee for Education and Labor with Congressman Norcross. “I’m proud of this entrepreneurial group of organizers, starting the unionization process at the birth of New Jersey’s new, legalized industry. Their spirit should be replicated across the country in other states who have recently legalized cannabis.”

UFCW Local 360 President Sam Ferraino praised both congressmen for making the topic of cannabis more than just revenue-based, but a conversation of justice and equity through workers’ rights.

"The UFCW is committed to creating careers in the cannabis space,” said Ferraino, who was a major force is passing labor peace agreement legislation in New Jersey. "We know that like any other industry, workers in cannabis will be used for their talents and skills yet won't receive the wages and benefits they deserve. From the hard work of our governor, state elected officials, and the solidarity of our UFCW members, New Jersey has the best labor protections for cannabis workers in the nation. Now it's time to make these labor protections a national conversation."

“We are workers. We have a voice, we have talent, and we have skills,” said Alexandra Verello, a cultivator at Garden State Dispensary. “We deserve to be recognized for those talents and skills. And we can do that… with a union.”

Watch the full roundtable discussion here.

On April 21, 2022, New Jersey became the 18th state in the nation to legalize cannabis. As of January 2022, the U.S. cannabis industry employed nearly 500,000 workers directly, and the Economic Policy Institute reported cannabis workers would benefit from unionization to the tune of $2,810-$8,690 per year, depending on their role.

New Jersey’s state cannabis regulatory authority requires businesses applying for a license to enter the legal cannabis market must adhere to labor peace agreements – a formal statement of neutrality on the issue of staff unionization. If cannabis businesses with New Jersey licenses fail to enter good faith collective bargaining with a bona fide labor organization within 200 days, they risk their license to operate being revoked.

Participants of the roundtable spoke about the widespread bias against cannabis workers used to justify low wages.

The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which Congressmen Norcross and Pocan championed and passed in the House over one year ago, would ensure cannabis workers can avail themselves of collective bargaining should they choose, helping to level the playing field between cannabis workers and the corporations making huge profits in what is expected to be a $72 billion industry in the United States by 2030.