Green Dragon cannabis workers successfully unionize, citing poor pay and safety issues

The message came at 4:20 p.m. Really.

Natasha Martinez pickets with former Green Dragon employees and supporters picket outside of their grow facility in La Alma/Lincoln Park. April 5, 2022.

Natasha Martinez pickets with former Green Dragon employees and supporters picket outside of their grow facility in La Alma/Lincoln Park. April 5, 2022.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
kyle harris

At 4:20 p.m. on Thursday, Denverite received a message from Green Dragon grow-house workers: They finally had their union.

Employees of the cannabis grow house and dispensary chain had voted on Thursday, Jimena Petersen, an organizer with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, confirmed.

“We had the ballot today, and we got 14 yeses and 11 nos,” she said. “So we won the election.”

Workers said they’re making demands for better treatment from the company, which has stores in both Colorado and Florida. Green Dragon has waged a fierce anti-union campaign, including laying off some staff members for organizing, workers said.

Why did they unionize?

Workers told Denverite in April that they were organizing after suffering poor treatment, low wages and inadequate ventilation. Organizers said the bosses refused to give them the personal protective equipment they needed to stay safe and described a warehouse with algae growing on the floor and insects and mold on the plants.

“I can’t breathe,” grow-house worker Jared Handran said. “All day, I have to wear a dust mask. And even with a dust mask, I go home and hack up mucus. It’s horrible. Like, some days, I can’t even breathe when I come home.”

Handran was not alone in suffering from respiratory issues.

“I sometimes can’t sleep at night with how hard I’m coughing,” grow-house worker Natasha Martinez said. “The breathing is really rough, and it doesn’t help that they’ve heard my complaint for, like, a year now, and nothing has changed.”

Several workers were fired and then rehired after unionizing, Petersen said in April.

Now that they have a recognized union, members plan to form a committee to negotiate better conditions with management. They will demand the company address issues of mold, raise wages, improve job stability and show respect to workers.

The unionization of grow-house workers is one of the first of its kind in Colorado.

“Colorado has a special law that allows agricultural workers now to unionize,” Petersen said, referring to a law passed in 2021.

“So Green Dragon is one of the first campaigns that we have been able to file with the state of Colorado,” she said. “It’s been a long process, because Green Dragon has fought us every step of the way.”

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