Partial Victory! Please Keep Supporting!
May 7, 2020 —
As of today, May 7th, Illinois has a total of 3,000 deaths from COVID-19, and over 68,000 people infected. There are approximately 68 cannabis dispensaries operating right now in our state. GTI owns 10 dispensary licenses in Illinois, 7 of which are open and operating.
On April 28th, GTI sent an email to our staff stating our store would now remain curbside-only for the month of May. This is a partial victory, as indeed this shift in company policy would have never come about if not for worker organizing and your support. However this petition is not simply for the health and safety of the people who work and visit our facility. We are petitioning the state to make all dispensaries (medical and adult-use) curbside-only during this extremely dangerous pandemic. Please continue sharing as we want to continue to make it clear to the state and all cannabis companies such as GTI that we want them to do the right thing and make all dispensaries curbside-only. It would be incomplete if were only to do this for our clinic alone.
It is in this spirit that we also ask you to support cannabis patients, clients, and workers in Hawai'i and sign their petition for curbside pick-up during COVID-19 as well (link posted below).
We want to do the most we can to protect our communities and the greater human and sentient family during this deadly pandemic. Please contact GTI (info posted below) to request that all of our stores be curbside-only during COVID-19. The current rate of infection and death is too high, and continuing to subject our staff, patients, and communities to in-store service is too dangerous. We are not an acceptable loss.
So many of the industries in our nation are unnecessarily dangerous. The railroad, steel, canals, concrete, food, batteries, textile, factories, plastic, meat, farming, construction, tool and die, sanitation, chemical, etc.- these industries are often dangerous workplaces because companies refuse to do right by their workers and equip them with the proper health and safety protocols to mitigate injury and death. We should not allow this.
In this time of a pandemic, the true ethos of corporations are exposed for all to see. We've seen the cost of dangerous, ill-regulated, revenue driven industries: human life and the earth. Too many industries are examples of historical insensitivity, ignorance, and greed. Now is the time to learn from history, not only in terms of how to cope and adapt to this pandemic, but also in terms of how to treat each other. Are we caretakers of each other and the earth? Or exploiters, manipulators, and abusers?
Cannabis cannot become the latter, especially when it is a life-changing force for good. We work in this industry because we care about the health and well-being of others. We have pride in what we do and work hard to build our knowledge and skill sets to give our patients and clients the best service and products available. Yet in the last several months, it has become clear that GTI is more concerned about profits and margins than the health and well-being of its workers, patients, clients, and communities they operate in.
In regard to our union petition for election, GTI is continuing to interfere and undermine our right to a free union election. The company continues to appeal our petition with the National Labor Relations Board by stating we have more employees than we actually have. They are transferring employees from other dispensaries and counting them as staff in order to make it seem we don't have the majority vote. Similar to the union drive at our Rock Island facility back in the Fall/Winter 2019, GTI is not remaining neutral and instead choosing to interfere in our right to a free union election.
GTI operates in 12 states and counting. The company manufactures, distributes, and markets its products (under brands such as Rythm, Dogwalkers, The Feel Collection, and Incredibles) to dispensaries in each of these states. Ben Kovler is founder and CEO of GTI, and Chairman of its Board of Directors. On April 23rd during a Q&A session with our staff, Mr. Kovler said he was disappointed with us for wanting to form a union. He asked us why we did not communicate our concerns with management and recommended we keep using the open line of communication to address our issues. His assertion that we have not been communicating with management and corporate is false. As stated in our petition, we have communicated our concerns and issues regarding COVID-19 for months, along with all other issues pertaining to our well-being and fair compensation. The fact remains that our concerns have been ignored and side-stepped by GTI management and corporate.
As workers we are not disposable or easily replaceable. We are the face and heart, the hands and feet of GTI. And we want to be respected and related with as such. We are human beings with dignity and worth. This is about right relationships. This is about boundaries and self-love. This is about having an equal say in the agreements we make with GTI and with each other on how we want to be related with at our place of work. It is not enough to simply have "jobs", we want life-supporting, life-respecting jobs and careers. The cannabis industry should not be another industry that unnecessarily exposes its workers to dangerous working conditions, toxic work environments, and compensates us with wages that leave us surviving paycheck to paycheck.
Ben Kovler's compensation in 2018 and 2019 was as such:
- Total compensation in 2018: $1,648,862. Broken down into: $312,185 salary; $241,400 bonus; $1,070,277 stock compensation; and $25,000 for attending Board of Director meetings.
- Total compensation in 2019: $3,915,943. Broken down into: $295,000 salary; $400,000 bonus; $3,168,000 stock compensation; and $52,943 Board of Director payment.
The total compensation listed here does not include the yearly revenue that Ben Kovler makes on buildings that he and other members of the Board of Directors own and lease to GTI. Or the yearly revenue made on payments to GTI's loyalty and digital communications platform, Spring Big, which is also owned by Ben Kovler and several members of the Board of Directors. Furthermore, because the majority of GTI's voting shares are currently owned by three of its senior executives (Ben Kovler, Andrew Grossman, and Anthony Georgiadis) there really is not a Board of Directors but a Board directed by GTI corporate. This concentrated voting power allows GTI to determine the actual outcome of any and all matters submitted to shareholders for approval or support, including compensation.
GTI prides itself on operating in "limited supply oligopolistic markets" in which cannabis is legalized but where there can only be a limited number of producers. Now that adult use cannabis sales are legal in Illinois, here is an idea of what 2020 revenue for GTI will look like:
- GTI's Rise store in Mundelein had approximately $30,000 to $50,000 in sales each day as a medical cannabis store. Since adult-use sales became legal on January 1, 2020, Mundelein daily sales now average $200,000 to $250,000. Subtract 60% in Illinois taxes and that is still $100,000 to $150,000 in revenue each day.
That is a triple increase in revenue. In 7 going on 10 stores. Medical cannabis and adult-use sales will make billionaires out of GTI corporate, and keep workers hoping to afford life week to week. In 2018, Ben Kovler made more than we make in one year's wages (less than $25,000) just by attending Board of Director meetings.
All of GTI's revenue is made off the backs and pockets of the company's workers, patients, and clients. And if we get sick with COVID-19, it is considered an acceptable loss.
As GTI staff, we deeply care about each other and what we do at our facilities. We have come to know and love each other along with so many of our patients and clients. All of our recent organizing efforts have all been done with you all in our heart and mind. We are passionate about sticking together to make our clinics and stores a safe and healthy place to work and visit. Please continue to spread our message and petition. It is a labor of love. We do not believe that the cannabis industry has to be run in this way. We believe GTI corporate and management can do better and we ask that you help us hold them to it.
We are calling on GTI corporate and management to commit to:
- Curbside-only sales at all our stores and clinics, along with all other proper health and safety measures in response to the dangerous COVID-19 pandemic. Workers continue to be exposed to the risk of worker-to-worker transmission. One mask per employee is distributed every five days, and social distancing inside dispensaries is not adequately enforced or modeled by management.
- Transparency and effective communication.
- Fairness and respect in all areas of work and processes. GTI agreed we would be able to administer bi-annual reviews for management and they failed to deliver on their promise. Instead GTI chose to cut our raises and discounts, put our promotions on hold, and promote profits and margins over our requests for fairness and respect in our workplace.
- A more just and equal compensation for the physical/emotional/intellectual labor and time we put in. We deserve the same incentives and benefits that corporate receives. We have not received stock compensation or fair wages/salary/bonus for our labor and time.
- An equal voice on the job especially for decisions that affect workers and patients/clients. GTI's rhetoric is that there are thousands of people who want to work in this industry, therefore they believe they don't have to treat us justly and can replace us easily. We are more than an expense, and we have an equal stake in the decisions and policies that affect us.
- Staff development and support. Fair and just hiring practices and promotions. We want more diversity and inclusion in our workplace. As well as more social equity when it comes to hiring.
- Conflict resolution processes such as talking circles and workshops.
- The fair and just distribution of profits already being made, without raising prices for products and medicines.
- Due processes in the workplace and mediation practices instead of GTI management and corporate firing and harassing employees for things such as personal feelings and popularity.
- Protections against sexual harassment, intimidation, racism, discrimination, violence, and bullying. Management continues to scapegoat and single out employees to bully, mistreat, antagonize, and terminate. When employees speak out and request changes they are ignored, gas-lighted, and retaliated against.
- Consistent and fair policies: full-time status is granted to employees via a process that is irrational and unfair. GTI is unwilling to designate employees full-time status because full-time employees receive paid time off (PTO), health, and retirement benefits. The company would rather keep employees without these benefits. During the COVID-19 pandemic, GTI granted 48 hrs of PTO (that have to be paid back) to only full-time employees, even though part-time employees work full-time hours and need the same protections and benefits.
- We want GTI to enter into an agreement with us that safeguards our rights, health, and dramatically improves our standard of living. There is no such thing as unskilled labor, just low-paid jobs, low-respected employees, unjustly compensated labor, and unnecessarily dangerous jobs.
- We want measures in place that afford us healthy, happy, and secure lives so we can thrive. We don't want another industry that leaves workers, our families, and our communities living with the realities and generational effects of physical and socioeconomic insecurities, just struggling to survive.
- Finally, we want GTI to remain neutral and respect our right to fair and free union elections.
We want to unionize because GTI has clearly shown us during this most serious pandemic of COVID-19 that they will prioritize profit over human needs. GTI has prioritized unlimited growth, profits, and revenue over the health, safety, well-being, and fair compensation of its workers. GTI has also prioritized their profits and revenue over the health, safety, and well-being of our patients and communities. We have no one to turn to except ourselves, and that is to unionize. GTI corporate and management, along with Human Resources (HR) have proven to us that they will prioritize GTI's bottom line every time, before anything and anyone. It took an organized work stoppage, reports to OSHA, a union drive, and this public petition to pressure GTI to agree to curbside-only service, to start providing us with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and to include us in our company-wide call center as a resource during COVID-19. It took almost two months of direct organizing and pressure.
We do not wish to stop now and accept our toxic work environment and conditions. We want to unionize to protect and promote our well-being and that of our patients and clients. GTI corporate cannot and will not guarantee this unless it enters into a union contract with us. Nothing about us, without us, is for us.
We thank you again for all your love and support,
3C Naperville Workers in Unity for Safety for All
**Link to support cannabis patients, clients, and workers in Hawai'i during COVID-19: http://chng.it/jrQsRRHB4T
**Contact Information for GTI Corporate and Management:
Ben Kovler (CEO) Phone: 312-664-5050 and 415-609-2629 Email:email@example.com
Brendan Blume (Market President-IL) Phone: 773-706-7517 Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Derrick Levy (District Manager) Phone: 303-726-6982 Email:email@example.com
Gregory Zeman (Store Manager-3C Naperville) Phone: 630-460-9311 Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
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