Workers at the biggest cannabis growing facility located outside of Chicago, Illinois voted overwhelmingly to unionize in the first key win for organized labor in the state's brand-new legalized pot industry.

Cresco Labs grows legal weed for medicinal and recreational use at its cultivation center in Joliet, a far southwestern suburb of the US midwestern metropolis.  Workers there voted 53-38 to join the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW), which is known for its explosive growth organizing grocery stores around the country and service workers in Las Vegas.

"This is a precedent-setting victory for the workers who took on one of the largest companies in the industry at one of the largest facilities in Illinois and stood strong over the past five months," said Zach Koutsky, legislative and political director for UFCW Local 881.

"Our union is proud of these workers and looks forward to standing with them to negotiate and demand a fair and just contract that will improve their working conditions," said Steve Powell, president of Local 881.

The agreement will have 100 of the cultivation center's 130 or so workers joining the UFCW.  The actual hands-on weed workers are not covered by this because farm workers are subject to federal, not state, labor laws.  Still, it's an important win for labor in the newly emerging US cannabis sector, as the Teamsters failed in a vote to organize workers at the Green Thumb Industries facility in Rock Island in western Illinois.  Cresco's management indicated it will work with the union.

"Throughout this process, we have respected, supported and protected the rights of our employees to make this important decision through an independent secret ballot election," said Charlie Bachtell, Cresco Labs' co-founder and CEO.  "We look forward to continuing to provide all of our employees a fair package of employee wages, health and retirement benefits, and an environment that is a great place to work."

The UFCW represents some 10,000 weed workers in the United States.  A schedule for negotiations with Cresco has not been set.