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Growing a Cannabis Workers Movement  

Ariana Perez
B.E.A.C.H. Center Inc.

“Having worked in cannabis for seven years, I have experienced firsthand how workers in this industry are mistreated. Some nonunion shops still run like a black market operation, with under-the-table wages, long shifts, and unpaid overtime. My union contract makes sure that I am fairly compensated for my work.”

Edwin Leon
Melrose Herbal Collective

“The union helped pave the way to make the cannabis industry legitimate. We are now represented in the same circle as pharmacy and grocery workers. When workers have the power to negotiate our wages and benefits, it strengthens the industry as a whole.”

Andy Ayala
Melrose Herbal Collective

“This job helps me support my family and pay for my education. I want to end the stigma against the cannabis industry, and the union does that by bringing its members to the forefront.”

Andrea Sotoy
California Caregivers Alliance

“What I do is what I love. I want to be able to have the same benefits and protections as everyone else, to be treated like a real worker. This union empowers me to know about my rights and teaches me how to protect them.”

On January 1, 2018, California will legalize cannabis for recreational, as well as medical, use.

Our union UFCW Local 770 is committed to helping form a sustainable, well-regulated, socially just cannabis industry that balances the needs of workers, communities and business owners in Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. 

The future of the industry looks very bright. Time Magazine reports that California’s cannabis market will likely grow by $5 billion by 2020. This industry has the potential to add thousands of new members to our union’s movement for good jobs and a voice at work.

On January 1, 2018, the State of California will begin accepting applications from aspiring cannabis business operators (retail dispensaries, cultivation, manufacturing, testing, delivery and distribution) so they may lawfully operate if in compliance with the State and Local government standards. UFCW Local 770 is fully committed to organizing and representing workers employed in the Cannabis industry within its jurisdiction. 

In addition to organizing workers, our union UFCW Local 770 will continue its local and state-level policy work to strengthen cannabis worker protections and promote social equity programs to ensure just reinvestment, workforce development, and incubation programs. UFCW Local 770's policy work occurs in partnership with cannabis industry leaders who seek to build a responsible industry.

Why a union for cannabis workers?

How can UFCW Local 770 improve workers’ standard of living, improve business stability and productivity, and lift standards for the emerging cannabis industry in California?

For Workers: 
Cannabis workers represented by UFCW Local 770 wield the collective power to win the best possible working conditions in the industry. All workers have rights to a workplace free from harassment, discrimination, wage theft, and occupational health and safety hazards. A strong union is the best way to ensure a voice at work, a fair and just workplace, and best possible wages, benefits and working conditions.

How does the union deliver for workers? Workers represented by UFCW Local 770 engage in collective bargaining with cannabis business employers over the terms and conditions of their work. Union contracts guarantee working conditions, such as wages, hours of work, employee benefits, “just cause” for discipline and discharge and a dispute resolution process, paid time off for illness, holidays, vacations, and other potential benefits. If the employer does not honor its obligations under your union contract, UFCW Local 770 will fight for you. The union contract defines respect and ensures fairness at your workplace. 

For Employers: 
UFCW Local 770 has partnered with industry leaders for years to enact responsible cannabis regulations at the state and local levels. Our union has already negotiated over twenty collective bargaining agreements with retail dispensary operators in the City of Los Angeles. Our unionized cannabis employers benefit from the professionalism, predictability, and stability a union workforce provides. Good, industry-wide job standards backed up by a union contract will allow business operators to compete on a level playing field. Additionally, California law requires cannabis businesses with 20 or more employees to enter into a Labor Peace Agreement with a “bona fide labor organization,” such as UFCW Local 770. The Labor Peace requirement for the City of Los Angeles applies to cannabis business license applicants with 10 or more employees.

For Communities:
UFCW Local 770 empowers its members to win the good jobs our communities need to thrive. Our union works closely with over one hundred community-based organizations to hold business owners accountable and to act as a partner on local labor and community issues.

UFCW Local 770 shops are safer in and around the business and community. Union shop stewards and business representatives help ensure employers strictly adhere to regulations enacted to protect communities -- that means business operations are conducted during allowable hours of operation, security staff are always on site and properly trained, and high standards for safety are upheld. Union members have the support and independence necessary to stand up to employers and for their community.

UFCW Local 770 is a forceful advocate for social equity in the cannabis industry – including access to business ownership and job opportunities for communities targeted by the unjust War on Drugs. Our union champions a Social Equity Program including a robust workforce development program; worker protection and safety provisions; formation of a Neighborhood Health Fund and/or Community Reinvestment Program; education and outreach programs that will ensure the program's success. UFCW Local 770 is a champion for programs that will prevent further criminalization, and reinvest in our future.

Cannabis Policy Priorities

UFCW Local 770 supports State and local cannabis regulations that provide strong worker protections and ensure cannabis industry workers have a voice on the job. Under the State law, violations of state or local laws that protect workers' rights, including wage and hour laws, are prohibited. Our union is committed to ensuring effective enforcement of worker protections so that employers compete on a level playing field. We will work closely with cannabis industry regulators to make sure licensees comply with State standards such as payroll tax obligations, workers compensation insurance, and anti-discrimination laws. Our union will hold licensees that try to gain an unfair competitive advantage by violating their workers' rights accountable for their actions. We are also committed to ensuring transparency and public accountability throughout the licensing process. Workers, community members and local public bodies should have easily available access to the information cannabis license applicants provide to the State and local licensing authorities and have a forum to provide relevant information to regulators.

Commitment to Cannabis Workers

UFCW LOCAL 770’s campaign to legalize and unionize the cannabis industry began in 2011 in LA City. 6 years ago, we started organizing employees and bargaining at regulated LA City dispensaries including Cornerstone Collective, LA Wonderland, and Organic Green Treatment Center, among numerous others. At these stores, workers organized for better wages, working conditions, and benefits. Since 2011, UFCW Local 770 has been active both representing workers in the industry and pioneering legislation locally and at the state level to grow the industry.

The summer of 2012 marked a potentially life or death moment for LA City’s dispensaries, and one which galvanized the union to enter a new phase of advocacy. In July 2012, the LA City Council unanimously approved a ban to shut down all dispensaries in the City. UFCW Local 770 and our industry partners mobilized to gather enough signatures (70,000) to put a proposal on a citywide ballot to reverse the pot ban. The 2013 ballot campaign culminated not only in reversal, but the overwhelming passage of Proposition D. ‘Prop D’ allowed 135 medical cannabis businesses to step out of the shadows of the black market and into a legitimate, better-regulated cannabis dispensary market.

In June 2017, the California Legislature passed SB 94 integrating Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA) with Prop 64 – the Adult Use of Marijuana Act of 2016 (AUMA) - to create the Medicinal and Adult‐Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA). Under MAUCRSA, a single regulatory system governs the medical and adult use cannabis industry in California. The law goes into effect on January 1, 2018. The state law establishes a new statewide licensing system for cultivation, manufacturing, dispensing, distribution, delivery, and testing of recreational and medical cannabis. And crucially for cannabis industry workers, licensees with twenty or more employees are required to enter into a Labor Peace Agreement with a “bona fide labor organization” that ensures cannabis industry workers will enjoy a fair process to decide to join our union. The Labor Peace requirement applies to cannabis businesses with ten or more employees in the City of Los Angeles.

With these state regulations rolling out in 2018, California’s legalized cannabis market will flourish. UFCW Local 770 will be at the forefront, organizing for reliable, well-paying jobs; successful, responsible operators; and just reinvestment of profits in exploited neighborhoods.

Nationally, the UFCW represents cannabis workers in six states and the District of Columbia. Members work in dispensaries, coffee shops, bakeries, patient identification centers, hydroponics stores, and growing and training facilities.

California pot shops prepare for their first day of legal recreational marijuana sales

Original article from The Los Angeles Times

Pot dispensaries in Southern California were scrambling Sunday to prepare for their first day of legal recreational marijuana sales, with a historic state law permitting such businesses set to take effect New Year’s Day.

Labor unions see organizing California marijuana workers as a way to grow

Original article from The Los Angeles Times

"Are they going to be new age and cool with it," Zonderman said, "or like other businesspeople, say, 'Heck, no. We're going to fight them tooth and nail'?"

Last year, California voters approved sales of recreational marijuana to those 21 and older at licensed shops beginning Jan. 1.

L.A. lawmakers back new regulations on marijuana industry

Original article from The Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles lawmakers backed a host of new regulations for the marijuana industry Wednesday, paving the way for the hotly anticipated business of recreational pot.

Where can you open a pot shop? L.A. is hammering out those rules

Original article from The Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles took another step Thursday to prepare for the legal selling of recreational marijuana, hammering out proposed rules on where pot shops and other cannabis companies can operate.

In the age of Trump, how do you build a legal marijuana industry from the ground up?

Original article from The Los Angeles Times 

Election night 2016 was such a shocker nationally that maybe you’ve forgotten that, oh yes, California voted to legalize recreational marijuana. And come January, if you’re at least 21, cannabis can be officially taxed and sold to you, just like, oh, the cheese doodles you’ll be wanting to eat after you light up. It is a massive undertaking, turning an illegal underground industry into a legal and legit one – a business that could put $50 million a year in tax money into the city’s purse.

Last month, Mayor Eric Garcetti chose Cat Packer to be executive director of the department of cannabis regulation. He, and the City Council and a cannabis commission, will be crafting the city’s rules and regulations for who can sell what where, and Packer’s office will be enforcing them. She was California coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance, and she doesn’t underestimate the scale of this, everything from how sellers get licensed to whether to put bins at the airport for tourists to throw away their pot before they board a plane. As L.A. becomes the biggest pot-friendly city in the nation, the nitty-gritty of making it work here could be the making or breaking of cannabis deregulation nationwide.

This is a job that’s never existed before. How do you create a job like this from scratch?