Cannabis-sed off | 600 workers at Eaze, the “Uber of weed,” threaten 'unprecedented' strike over pay and conditions

600 workers at Eaze, the “Uber of weed,” threaten 'unprecedented' strike over pay and conditions

Nearly 600 delivery drivers and workers at Eaze, the biggest cannabis delivery company in the US, are threatening strike action over pay and working conditions.

Eleven depots across California would be disrupted by the strike, which could come just ahead of April 20th – otherwise known as ‘4/20’ – a popular day of celebration in marijuana culture and the busiest day of the year for commercial cannabis companies.

The strike would also include workers at Stachs, a cannabis delivery subsidiary of Ease.

The United Food Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), which represents nearly 600 Eaze and Stachs workers alongside over 6,000 others in the cannabis industry throughout California, has released a statement saying the workers have rejected Eaze’s “last, best, and final" contract offer and “have authorized their union, if necessary, to call for a strike.”

It described the potential strike action as “unprecedented.”

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Eaze and Stachs workers have filed charges against their employer with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing the company of cutting mileage reimbursement from $0.56 per mile to $0.42 per mile in the summer of 2023 outside of bargaining.

“That cost drivers $300 to $700 a month on average, depending on how much you drive and that was pretty annoying,” says Ron Swallow, a delivery driver for Eaze. “It was also the first time in my whole life I’ve ever come to a job and then been told I was going to get paid less.”

Another driver, Lay Lay Lee, says the decision to reduce the mileage reimbursement is “theft,” and that the company needs to provide a better offer than $0.45 per mile.

Swallow and his peers also accuse the cannabis delivery company of reducing working hours, reducing security in delivery depots, and low pay, having unionized in 2023 following the changes which they argue have compromised their ability to make ends meet.

“Eaze/Stachs’s billionaire financial backers have been getting richer off our labor while company management has cut hours, raised health insurance premiums, and eliminated security officers,” says Swallow. “Cannabis delivery depots are not the safest environments for drivers, who carry a lot of cash and product. Our proposals are perfectly reasonable; we just want to be able to pay our bills on time.”

Buzz kill: Eaze CEO and workers at odds over pay and profitability

Cory Azzalino, the CEO of Eaze, denies the company offers low pay and says the company offers adequate pay. “In an industry being suffocated from high taxes and over-regulation, Eaze pays our drivers fair wages averaging over $25 per hour including tips, as well as benefits and consistent scheduling,” Azzalino says in an email statement to the Guardian.

Azzalino claims the company has a driver tenure of over 2.4 years with low tenure and an applicant pool double the size of its workforce, demonstrating a “reasonable compensation package”.

Whilst one delivery driver, Austin Williams, claims the drivers are “the reason for the company’s profits, and while they’re getting richer, we’re barely scraping by,” Azzalino refutes the assertion.

“Eaze has not earned a profit in its history, so this is not the case of old industry hoarding profits,” he adds.

Eaze was founded in 2014 and has become the largest medical cannabis delivery company in the US, dubbed as the “Uber of weed.” The company has previously raised millions of dollars in funding, including from cannabis cult hero Snoop Dogg.

Delivery drivers represented by the UFCW disagree with Azzalino’s perspective and say Eaze and Stachs could be doing more to offer better pay.

“Stachs claims poverty to the union in negotiations. But they are claiming growth and prosperity in interviews seen by the public and shareholders," says Kerry McCue, a delivery driver and UFCW union steward.”

McCue says the union does not want to put the company out of business as the employees “love” their work. “That is why we are fighting for fair compensation. California is the most expensive state in the country to live in. We are single parents and veterans and students, and everyday people just trying to work hard, and make enough to pay our bills."

The UFCW statement says that despite the fact the latest offer from Eaze and Stachs did not reach their demands for raising the mileage reimbursement rate, upping hourly wages, an ensuring a minimum number of hours, they still hope to reach an agreement and avoid any work stoppages.

However, the workers have voted to strike ahead of April 20th if no agreement is reached.

“UFCW members are ready and willing to do what it takes to ensure Eaze/Stachs agrees to a contract that respects our work and ensures we can put food on the table and pay our rent,” Williams concludes.

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