Unions have caught a whiff of a rare opportunity to organize a whole new set of workers as recreational marijuana becomes legal in California.
The United Farm Workers, Teamsters and United Food and Commercial Workers are looking to unionize the tens of thousands of potential workers involved in the legal marijuana game, from planters to rollers to sellers. The move could provide a boost to organized labor’s lagging membership — if infighting doesn’t get in the way.
The United Farm Workers, co-founded by iconic labor leader Cesar Chavez, says organizing an industry rooted in agriculture is a natural fit, and growers could label their products with the union’s logo as a marketing strategy.
“If you’re a cannabis worker, the UFW wants to talk with you,” national vice president Armando Elenes said.
But United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents grocery store employees, meat packers and retail workers, registered its intent to organize cannabis workers across the country.
“We would hope they respect our jurisdiction,” UFCW spokesman Jeff Ferro said.
Teamsters organizer Kristin Heidelbach said there’s no need for unions to battle each other. There will be plenty of workers needing representation as small cannabis businesses run by “happy stoner” types give way to large pharmaceutical corporations, she said.