Zen Leaf Buchanan workers move to unionize

Published 9:01 am Wednesday, February 7, 2024

BUCHANAN — A Buchanan business has initiated the process to unionize.

Zen Leaf Buchanan, 259 E. Front St., Buchanan, has filed with the state to organize with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union – the first step towards forming a union.

Zen Leaf was the first marijuana dispensary business to open in the city and was the first operating within a 65-mile radius when it opened in May 2019. Zen Leaf is owned by Verano Holdings, which is headquartered in Chicago.

“We’ve been talking about it for years but no one’s really taken the initiative,” said Zen Leaf Supervisor Kelsey Rems. “We decided that this is something that we wanted to do, so we started the process… We believe that cannabis workers in the whole industry are being exploited,” she said. “If we come together and exercise our right to bargain collectively, we can make positive change for everybody.”

According to Rems, workers will vote March 1 about whether to approve union representation. She said that the feedback from coworkers and customers alike has been positive.

“We’ve been telling our customers that we’ve officially filed,” she said. “We get a lot of people from the Gary, Indiana area, the steel workers. They’re already unionized so they’re supportive. We’ll vote next month and we’re already at like a 75 percent majority, so it’s looking pretty good.”

Should the vote be successful, Zen Leaf will become the first of Buchanan’s dispensaries to unionize. Rems hopes that Zen Leaf Buchanan’s pursuit of a union will inspire other dispensaries to do the same.

“We are trying to inspire Other dispensaries, particularly “We’ve actually had some people from other stores coming to our meetings already,” she said. “We think all five Buchanan dispensaries could unionize. That’s our goal.”