October 17, 2019

California Cannabis Workers Push to Form Labor Unions Gets Boost from Governor

October 17, 2019
Cannabis workers of all stripes are in the process of forming trade unions across the country.

Cannabis workers of all stripes are in the process of forming trade unions across the country (as well they should).  As the cannabis industry continues to emerge across our country and more industry issues are raised and standards are being set, there is a good chance we will be seeing more actions such as this.  

California Governor Gavin Newsom potentially helped move the process forward when he signed a law requiring all cannabis shops as well as future applicants with 20 or more employees to enter into and “abide by the terms of a labor peace agreement.”

The new law, signed on Oct. 12, 2019, makes California the second state requiring licensed weed shops to accept a deal that forces managers to promise not to discourage or pressure workers from joining or forming a trade union. In exchange, organizers will not encourage strikes against the company.

New York is the other state with a similar labor agreement.

As the cannabis sector continues to expand, and decriminalization and legalization of recreational marijuana seems poised to become a significant issue in the 2020 presidential race, labor unions have been pushing for these agreements.

The Teamsters, the largest trade union in the United States, say there are still a number of challenges facing people whose labor fuels the budding cannabis industry. The union, formed in 1903, say they want to make sure the $6 billion weed industry does not exploit workers, who are often paid minimum wage or below.

“Big investors and smaller-scale cannabis operators come from two different worlds, and as the industry collectively works to find its footing in a rapidly changing social and legal framework, some employees run the risk of being left behind,” according to a Teamsters’ publication titled “Labor Unions and the Cannabis Industry.”

Unionized cannabis workers have been negotiating annual raises, health insurance subsidies, and higher-than-average wages, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW Cannabis), which has been organizing cannabis workers across the country since 2010.

The UFCW represents tens of thousands of cannabis workers across various states in areas such as growing and cultivating facilities, manufacturing and processing facilities, and laboratory and dispensary workers.

What is a peace deal?

In California, the state has required cannabis shops to sign labor deals since 2018, after recreational marijuana was approved. The problem was that the law did not provide any enforcement measures nor did it give cannabis companies a deadline to comply.

The new law gives cannabis and weed-related companies 60 days to put the bill’s requirements into effect. If they don’t, workers can file a complaint with California state labor regulators.

This will “provide employees with clarity on when an employer is failing to comply with the laws and a complaint needs to be filed,” said Reggie Jones-Sawyer, the California assembly member who sponsored the bill, per the Cannabis Wire.


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