Big unions looking to include cannabis workers in their ranks

Big unions looking to include cannabis workers in their ranks

Unions like the United Farm Workers and United Food and Commercial Workers represent laborers in the agriculture and food industries (from farming all the way up to packaging and retail sales), and they've said that they want cannabis workers included in their groups. According to The Associated Press, The United Farm Workers are leading the charge to get the cannabis industry unionized from start to finish. "If you're a cannabis worker, the UFW wants to talk with you," says national vice president Armando Elenes.

In general, unionizing would have a lot of benefits for the cannabis industry -- getting represented as a group would help with issues around legalization and problems like not being able to use federally assisted banks, and though some workers might wince at paying high union fees, unions are generally able to wrangle better benefits and better situations for most workers, despite the industry they're in. So there are plenty of reasons, as the cannabis industry continues to grow, for workers to connect up, both to each other and to larger labor groups. Some dispensaries have already unionized with their own local groups, though there isn't any industry-wide agreement in place yet.

At the same time, however, unions can bring problems as well. High union dues can be very rough for low income workers and smaller businesses (of which there are plenty in the cannabis industry) and of course whenever you have an organization as big as the United Farm Workers, corruption can be a problem. It's not always clear where union dues are going, or whether a union's priorities really line up with everyone in their ranks. Some cannabis business might rather keep to themselves and treat their employees right in their own way, rather than having to subscribe to the many requirements and politics that come with being part of a larger union.

Not to mention that there may be a battle among the bigger unions anyway. Given the industry's medical ties, it's not hard to think that the bigger pharmaceutical companies might come after cannabis at some point, and they'll want to have a say along with everyone else. And some pioneers in the industry, naturally disposed against larger corporations and groups, might not have any interest in unionizing at all.

For the sake of low level workers, it might be nice to have someone representing their interests right away, if for no other reason than to make sure they don't get lost in the feeding frenzy that's no doubt about to take place as the cannabis market matures. Who that will be, however, and how they'll do that job, remains to be seen. The UFW has shown an interest in bringing in cannabis workers, but we'll have to wait and see how that all works out.

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