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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.

Bid to repeal L.A.'s ban on pot shops may be headed for ballot

A referendum to repeal a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles appears to be headed for the ballot, with pot shop supporters saying Wednesday that they have collected nearly twice the signatures required to force a citywide vote and key City Council members signaling that they won't try to stop it.


UFCW Affirms Support for Access to Medical Cannabis in Small Regulated, Financially Transparent Dispensaries

Statement of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 770 President Rick Icaza:

We continue to support an ordinance that would allow the approximately 100 licensed and regulated dispensaries established before 2007 to continue to operate," said Rick Icaza, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770, the union representing medical cannabis dispensary workers. UFCW represents workers at 40 of Los Angeles' medical cannabis dispensaries, all licensed by the city.

Voters in the state of California overwhelmingly passed proposition 215 to give the sick and disabled access to this useful medicine," continued Icaza. "The city should not try to subvert the will of the voters and deny the sick and infirm relief in order to score political points. We should all work together to reach an agreement which will allow a small number of highly regulated, financially transparent dispensaries to operate in our city.

The motion passed to study ways to allow lawfully licensed pre-2007 dispensaries to continue to distribute medicine is the right approach. It would allow the city to crack down on rogue dispensaries violating laws and creating nuisances while allowing those suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDS, MS, muscular dystrophy and other painful and debilitating diseases to continue to receive their medicine.

We must act with compassion and guarantee safe access while at the same time enforcing the rule of law. A one size fits all approach denying the sick and infirm their relief is not the answer. As in much in life, if not politics, the answer lies in compromise. We urge the city council to set aside politics and create a real solution, one that preserves the right of the sick to their medicine in a safe and professional dispensary.

L.A.'s reefer madness - L.A. Times

The Los Angeles City Council has decided that leaving medical marijuana dispensaries unregulated and uncontrolled is what is best for L.A. residents. On Tuesday, as reported by The Times, council members voted 14 to 0 to no longer be in the business of ensuring that dispensaries are well run and that patients have safe access to medicine.


Ban medical marijuana? Sure you will ... - L.A. Times

Medical marijuana law is as twisted as the ends of a Canna Sutra spleef, so the Los Angeles City Council aims to act Tuesday to free the City of Angels from all the confusion and make our kids safe from designer cannabis. There's only one problem with the council's foolproof plan, dreamed up by Councilman Jose Huizar and backed by law-and-order City Atty. Carmen Trutanich: It can't possibly work.


Dueling Medical Marijuana Rallies Target City Council Before Tuesday's Dispensary Ban Vote -

Los Angeles City Council members are scheduled to vote on a citywide plan to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in L.A. on Tuesday, and activists on both sides of the battle came out in full force today to make their cases.

Backed by Councilmembers Jose Huizar, Mitchell Englander, Bernard Parks and Jan Perry, the proposed ban would allow primary caregivers and patients to grow and transport marijuana, according to City News Service. Additionally, the measure would permit two to three patients to collectively grow and share cannabis in homes or apartments—not storefronts.