Workers protest marijuana dispensary, demand union recognition

11:31 AM, Apr 7, 2013   |    comments
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PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- After fines and citations for marijuana regulation violations, the Wellness Connection of Maine marijuana dispensary is facing more backlash -- now, from its own employees.

Demanding the Wellness Connection recognize membership to the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, several of the marijuana dispensary workers protested on Congress Street Saturday afternoon.

"I believe patients come first, and I also believe the employees deserve a safe working environment," said Brittany Wallingford, a Wellness Connection employee at the Auburn facility.

The protest comes after the Wellness Connection was cited for 20 marijuana regulation violations, including the use of pesticides.

Protesters said they joined the union to have a stronger voice as the company cleans up its marijuana cultivation.

"Workers at this company have essentially been forced to either break the law, or jeopardize their job," said Matt Schlobohm, Executive Director of the Maine American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.

Schlobohm said the company refuses to recognize the union membership, but COO Patricia Rosi said that's not true.

"I have nothing against unions if a majority of my employees want to go through the union process," said Rosi.

Not all of the Wellness Center employees are pushing for unionization.

"Unfortunately, our majority isn't here today because we are all working to provide the patients of Maine their medicine," said Jessica Harrison, a Wellness Connection employee.

Wellness Connection has agreed to pay a $14,000 fine for its violations, and is working with regulators to follow medical marijuana cultivation laws.

"We are a start up in an emerging industry," said Rosi. "There's a lot of growing pains."


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