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Minnesota Medical and weed workers union are a model of boss-grunt relations

Though the marijuana start-up was losing money, workers still received built-in wage increases, sick time, and healthcare with no premium fees through 2017.

Though the marijuana start-up was losing money, workers still received built-in wage increases, sick time, and healthcare with no premium fees through 2017. MinnMed

These past two years have not been easy for medical marijuana startup Minnesota Medical Solutions.

Because the state’s medical marijuana law is so restrictive -- allowing sales of only non-smokeable products and restricting ailments that can be treated -- it wasn’t until the state approved “intractable pain” as a condition last summer that it started seeing the enrollment numbers it needed to drop prices and stay open for business.

Before that happened, Minnesota Medical Solutions, a.k.a. MinnMed, saw losses of nearly $600,000 in 2014, its first year, and $3 million in 2015.

Still, MinnMed never cut corners with its employees, who began unionizing from day one.

MinnMed’s cannabis growers, extractors, packagers, pharmacists and receptionists fall under the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. Their first two years with the company, they had a contract with built-in wage increases, sick time, and healthcare with no premium fees through 2017.

Last week, they ratified a new agreement with even better benefits, including raises for everyone, an expansion of the wage scale, more holidays, and mileage and travel time reimbursements.

MinnMed CEO Dr. Kyle Kingsley, who was born to a union electrician father and a union teacher mother, says keeping his workforce happy is the foundation to retaining talent, product quality, and happy customers.

Jennifer Christensen, President of UFCW Local 1189, has to agree that the bosses have been exceptionally fair.

“I’m not known for being the nicest person in the world. I’m not known for being the most polished pebble on the beach. And I certainly fight for my members at every sitting,” she says. “So how were the bosses? They were polite. They were probably nicer than I am.”

“Minnesota Medical Solutions is leading the way nationally, and it shows in the quality of products and services that our members provide for the people of Minnesota.”

MinnMed has 11 employees, and is actively hiring more for its Moorhead and Rochester locations.  

Minnesota's other licensed medical marijuana manufacturer, LeafLine, is also union, but has yet to ratify a contract.