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Eaze resists unionization push: UFCW

By Alex Halperin
Apr 13, 2022
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Delivery app Eaze, one of the largest cannabis retailers in California, has become more resistant to unionization efforts since merging with Colorado-based retailer Green Dragon, according to United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 5 organizer Jim Araby.

Before the merger, which was announced in August and completed this year, Araby considered Eaze, one of the more union friendly cannabis operators in California.

In October 2020, UFCW 5 announced a three year contract with about 40 drivers at an Eaze subsidiary in the NorCal towns Clearlake and Cotati. UFCW claimed it was the first unionization of cannabis delivery drivers nationwide.

  • UFCW also reached a contract for drivers at Eaze subsidiary Hometown Heart in Oakland. Workers at both “have a good contract with great benefits,” Araby said.
  • The company and union even partnered on a policy initiative trying to increase the amount of product drivers could carry.

Last year UFCW 5 organized workers at a Hometown Heart depot in San Francisco and Araby says the tone changed. The union held one bargaining session with Eaze in January shortly before what he describes as “a changeover of corporate leadership.”

After the first session, Araby says, the company’s response slowed and it became unclear to him whether it saw cooperation with the union as a priority.

  • In February the union filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board against the company. They now have a bargaining session scheduled for this Monday.
  • In the now closed NLRB case, law firm Fisher Phillips represented the company.
  • San Francisco State University professor of labor history John Logan described it as one of the “big four” firms specializing in “union avoidance activity.” “Normally you hire these firms as a sign that you’re playing hardball with the union,” he said.
  • Alex Solomon, one of the drivers who joined the San Francisco union said that without it the company saw him and his colleagues as “totally dispensable.” He said the company was trying to reduce the premiums it paid for full time employees’ health coverage.

The San Francisco stand-off comes shortly after UFCW Local 7 picketed a Green Dragon grow house in Denver, alleging anti-union tactics.

  • Last week the company told WeedWeek that it “vehemently denies” being anti-union.

Initially touted as Eaze acquiring Green Dragon for undisclosed terms, the deal has shaken out with Green Dragon exerting significant control over the combined company, according to Araby, a view echoed by current and former Eaze employees.

  • Araby says he does not know who is in charge and has been dealing with Fisher Phillips.
  • The executives he worked with on the previous contracts are no longer at the company, he said.

In a email to staff obtained by WeedWeek and dated February 14, according to a source, Eaze CEO Rogelio Choi said Green Dragon’s co-founder and former Chief Development Officer Alex Levine would retain the same c-suite title at the combined company.

  • The email also named Levine’s father Andy Levine president of operations and the elder Levine’s wife, Lisa Leder, president of real estate.
  • Choi’s email named Ryan Milligan, the Green Dragon executive who UFCW had picketed in Denver, the combined company’s VP of cultivation and production.
  • Of the 17 executives Choi listed, at least two who came from the Eaze side have since left the company.
  • Choi’s email also shared the departure of 16 employees, several of them from his leadership team.

Current and former employees from the Eaze side, some of whom spoke to WeedWeek on condition of anonymity because they have signed NDA’s or fear retribution, said they believe the Green Dragon side of the company is now in the driver’s seat.

  • On Monday, Eaze engineer CJ Silverio tweeted that she had “shouted down” her CEO who was “yelling at my colleague.”
  • A current Eaze employee who was on the call and two former employees in touch with their former colleagues all told WeedWeek that they believed the incident involved Silverio questioning whether Choi has the authority to make CEO-level decisions. (Silverio didn’t respond to requests for comment.)
  • The company did not respond to a request for an its current management team and board of directors.
  • A statement provided by Choi did not respond to questions about who hired Fisher Phillips or who has the authority to hire and fire managers at the combined company:

“Eaze cannot comment on specific HR matters. That said, I personally value the difference of opinions and open expression of them at our company….

Our acquisition was finalized less than 2 months ago, and we are still in the process of finishing this complex merger… Some of our colleagues who started these union conversations are no longer with us, but we have every intention of continuing these conversations.”

“Eaze is supportive of unions. We have worked with the unions in California for many years, and though we’re just now getting to know our union partners in Colorado, we’re confident we will find shared ground there too. We look forward to continuing to prioritize our cooperation with the unions, including at the coming bargaining session scheduled for April 18th in California.”