California Pot Workers likely to be backed by Unions

Pot Workers

As pot goes fully legal in California on Jan. 1, we expect to see several new developments in the state’s marijuana industry. Unions are planning to organize individuals working in marijuana dispensaries and the entire industry.

According to Labor leaders, the industry will employ more than 100,000 individuals to grow, harvest, trim, process, and do weed delivery. The workers will be drawn from the north coast to the Sierra Nevada foothills and the San Joaquin. The Associated Press says as this multi-billion dollar industry grows, unions expect the membership to grow also.

So far three Unions – Teamster, The United Farm Workers, and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) have expressed their interest to unionize potential marijuana industry workers. If successful, the move could boost organized labor’s lagging membership.

Cesar Chaves, co-founder of United Farm Workers (UFW) says that there is nothing unusual about organizing the industry and that is may benefit the growers as it gives them an opportunity to label their products with the union’s logo.

UFW’s national Vice President Armando Elenes said the union is eagerly waiting to talk with pot workers.

The UFCW has a large membership comprising of many kinds of employees including meat packers, retail workers, and grocery store employees. They have also expressed interest to organize California’s cannabis workers.

The UFWC currently represents thousands of marijuana workers in six pot-friendly states. The membership includes people working in marijuana dispensaries, snack shops, weed delivery businesses, growers, and trainers.

UFWC’s spokesman Jeff Ferro, say they have hopes authorities will respect their decision.

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Kristin Heidelbach, team organizer for Teamsters says Unions have no reason to fight each other over this issue. According to her, the number of workers to be represented is likely to be higher than previously thought because there is probability small weed companies will give way to large corporations.

North Carolina’s professor of history David Zonderman says the surge in weed demand as a result of recreational use legalization will present opportunity to unions to gain the kind of influence they had in the late 1950s and earlier. But their infighting and resistance from weed business leaders are likely to upend it.

Zonderman say he’s wondering if weed business leaders are going to fight the unions, or just play cool with them.

Few months ago, California went to the ballot and approved recreational weed use for individuals aged over 21 at licensed marijuana dispensaries, from January 1, 2018. Medical weed has been legal in California since legalization in 1996.

According to Brightfield Group’s senior analyst Jamie Chau, this is not the first attempt in the US to organize weed workers as a number of other cannabis-friendly have done it before, but it’s very necessary that California be a union-friendly state. Brightfield specializes in analyzing the pot industry market.

In the whole of USA, California’s laws are considered the most worker-friendly. Also, the state’s minimum wages are highest in the US, and a larger percentage of workers in this state have union membership.

A rough study shows some workers are ready for unionizing.

Richard Rodriguez, a Los Angeles resident who recently established a marijuana business said he had never been in a trade union until he was involved in a sticky traffic stop incident that made him join Teamster.

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Rodriguez said a cop stopped his vehicle while on a legal weed delivery assignment. The charges were, he was following too closely behind a semi-truck and they put him in custody for 12 hours.

The ugly ordeal only ended when a union lawyer stepped in, and he was released without being issued a ticket or arrested.

Rodriguez says only a few companies can do that because the process of replacing employees is very easy.

Thomas Grier, employee of Canna Can Help Inc., one of Goshen Central Community’s top marijuana dispensaries, revealed that he is open to ideas that he thinks will benefit him and people he loves them most.

Canna Can Help Inc.’s annual pot sales total $7 million.

He recently was waiting on long queues of loyal customers walking into the dispensary to buy their favorite weed strains.

He said since he got employed no unions have approached him yet. Grier says he is so far comfortable with his working conditions and has a warm relationship with his employer, and he is not willing to pay unions to help settle workplace conflicts. However, he hasn’t fully discounted the likelihood of joining.

Unions are for the benefit of workers as they intervene to ensure employers respect their rights. They also advocate for federal and state laws to protect workers in marijuana dispensaries and entire marijuana industry. We hope unions will fight for pot workers’ living wages, safe working conditions, and retirement and healthcare benefits, just as they are doing for other industries’ workers.

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