Op-Ed: Cannabis Industry Jobs in NJ Must be Unionized

Hugh Giordano | June 17, 2019 | Opinion
Thousands of jobs and big economic opportunities are in the offing; unionized jobs would give everyone a voice

Hugh Giordano
Cannabis is the talk of the nation. In New Jersey discussion of it is all the rage — from the taxes it will bring to the state to how many mergers will happen before a single plant is grown. Everyone wants to be involved in this new, exciting opportunity.

One topic that has not been given enough attention by politicians is the potential creation of thousands of jobs through the expansion of medical cannabis, and — fingers crossed — adult-use (also known as recreational) cannabis.

It’s clear that cannabis at any level would bring an incredible economic opportunity for the working class of New Jersey. In April 2019, Forbes magazine estimated that there were 211,000 full-time employees within the U.S. cannabis industry. If you include other auxiliary industries connected to the cannabis industry — accountancy, marketing, legal — and other workers who are employed by the industry, that number soars to 296,000 people. In 2018, the cannabis industry added approximately 65,000 new jobs, or a 44 percent increase in just one year alone.

New Jersey has the perfect opportunity to legalize cannabis on all levels and create thousands of much-needed jobs. With both Stockton University and Rutgers University already taking the lead in training in the cannabis trade, why shouldn’t these educated workers be able to graduate and walk right into a union career? This could help attract professionals from around the country and stop the infamous leak of people leaving the state. Forbes estimates that by 2024 cannabis-related jobs — in positions such as budtender and head grower — will outpace job creation in manufacturing, utilities, and even the public sector, meaning college graduates can obtain a union career in cannabis and pay back those notorious student loans.

Many workers in other states are unionized

What people may not know is that a good percentage of cannabis workers in other states are already unionized. As a union representative for United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 152, the nation’s largest international cannabis union, it’s my job to make sure that the working class enjoys union guarantees, such as a living wage, healthcare benefits, safe working conditions, vacation, and retirement. Ensuring our workers have a legal voice on the job should be a top priority for both politicians and social justice advocates. At the end of the day, there will be more workers in the cannabis industry than there will be owners.

Unionized cannabis jobs in New Jersey will allow everyone — from the growers behind the scenes to the friendly security guards — to have a union voice on the job from day one. Potential employees will know that when they start their cannabis careers here in the state of New Jersey that their wages will be about 30 percent higher than those in non-union facilities in other states. This will also attract the best cannabis employers in the nation, who will willingly make a choice to treat their workers with respect and put it in a legally binding agreement, a union contract.

Besides the cannabis workers, the real winners will be medical cannabis patients. Studies have shown that when workers are appreciated both economically and socially, they stay longer, and the quality of work is better. Patients deserve to know that the cannabis industry in New Jersey has the best safety standards, quality medicine, and consistency in the workforce. A unionized cannabis industry will do that.

It’s time for New Jersey to legalize adult use and expand medical. Union Grown. American Made. Jersey Proud.