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Columbia marijuana dispensary employees picket for right to unionize

Six people are walking on a street with signs that say "Employees on STRIKE"
Employees of a Columbia marijuana dispensary began picketing Tuesday in an effort to unionize.

Employees of a Columbia marijuana dispensary began picketing Tuesday in an effort to unionize.

Employees claim the owners of Shangri-La Dispensaries have denied workers their rights to collectively bargain. The employees also claim at least nine workers have been suspended without pay or terminated under "suspicious circumstances."

However, owner Nevil Patel denied this.

"If any or all of them feel like they need to conduct a normal union vote, we are happy to do it," Patel said. "In fact, we are working with NLRB [National Labor Relations Board] and providing them information on a daily, weekly basis so they can make proper decisions."

Shangri-La has three locations in Missouri, including two in Columbia and one in Jefferson City. Employees were picketing outside its Peachtree Drive location Tuesday.


Employees said they informed the owners of Shangri-La that their strike is a "unfair labor practice" strike. Employees said they filed for union election on Tuesday, April 4, and that they still do not have an election date.

Sean Shannon, the cannabis organizing coordinator for United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 655, says the most important thing is getting the employees a union election.

"All they want to do is have their fair election, and when they do, they are going to vote union yes," Shannon said.

He says that Shangri-La has been difficult when trying to reach an election agreement.

Former employee Andrew Nussbaum says he is under suspension without pay and claims the company tries to get rid of those who attempt to unionize.

"We simply tried to stand up for our rights as workers and form a union," Nussbaum said. "The company decided they did not like that, and they started getting rid of every one of us."

Patel said they are not blocking any form of unionization on their end and that he supports the workers right to unionize.

"It's democracy, and we are here to respect that," Patel said.

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