Fired Dispensary Workers Claim Union Leadership as Root of Terminations

When eight workers at Root 66’s South Grand medical cannabis dispensary in St. Louis unanimously voted to unionize earlier this month, they were a couple of team members short in in their effort.

RELATED: Workers Vote to Unionize at Medical Dispensary in St. Louis

That’s because Em Holmead and Joanna Njama were fired in March, alleging that their union leadership was the root cause of losing their jobs, Riverfront Times reported. They started their team’s unionization campaign in early January.

Roughly a month after Holmead and Njama were fired, Root 66 employees voted April 4 to authorize the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 655 to begin bargaining on their behalf for a union contract, according to a news release from the union chapter.

The Root 66 workers are employed by GF Wellness S. Grand LLC, according to National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) documentation for the union election.

Holmead and Njama told Riverfront Times that Root 66 management claimed they violated company by viewing security camera footage. Neither worker denied viewing the security cameras, which they said was something they and other employees always had access to.

“They kept saying that we were spying on them,” Holmead, who worked as a cannabis adviser, told the news outlet. “I was the lead of the [union] campaign, I organized all of it, but they found a way to get me out of there.”

According to Holmead and Njama, they watched the dispensary’s live camera footage, which does not have audio, to ensure the facility had enough staff on the floor while the company’s president had one-on-one meetings with employees, Riverfront Times reported.

Now, a UFCW Local 655 lawyer filed an unfair labor practice charge against Root 66 with the NLRB.

In similar instances of cannabis employee terminations amidst union campaigns, workers were offered their back.

Niko Kruzel, a budtender who was fired in November 2021 for “lack of trust” and “poor work ethic,” as he helped organize at the Burnside Buds dispensary in Victoria, British Columbia, returned to work three weeks later.

And Ben Telford, a keyholder at the Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center, a medical cannabis dispensary in Portsmouth, R.I., was offered reinstatement with full back pay in December 2021, more than six months after his employment was terminated. He told no explanation was provided to him when he was fired.

Despite being fired, Holmead and Njama joined Root 66 workers April 4 outside the St. Louis dispensary to celebrate the union vote.

The Root 66 workers voiced the need for better benefits, including paid sick leave and vacation time, during their unionization campaign earlier this year, according to the Local 655 release.

“Cannabis workers across the country are voting to join a union because they know it’s the best way to secure good wages and benefits on the job,” Local 655 President David Cook said in the release. “Workers need economic security and fair treatment in the workplace, and cannabis workers are no different. We are committed to helping cannabis workers

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