If you’re a legitimate businessperson in a new, controversial industry with a significant number of less-than-legitimate businesses, how do you set yourself apart and show that you’re doing things the right way? For some medical marijuana dispensaries, one answer is to become union shops. Last week, workers at 14 Los Angeles marijuana dispensaries joined the United Food and Commercial Workers; workers in their industry elsewhere in California and in Colorado have also done the same. This move comes as the Los Angeles City Council is considering a ban.
Joining the UFCW has two potential benefits for marijuana dispensaries. It gets them a powerful ally with longstanding political connections; the Los Angeles Times reports, for instance, that one of the council members pushing the ban “has close ties to labor unions.” It also helps separate out the legitimate businesses from the questionable ones, though. Huffington Post’s Lila Shapiro reports that:
Union representatives are steering clear of shops whose employers are not following labor laws and instead focusing on dispensaries that they have found to be following all legal requirements, including registering their business with the city and paying taxes.
“We want only the best employers because we don’t think that many will be left standing at the end of this fight,” said Rigoberto Valdez, organizing director of the UFCW’s cannabis campaign.
And because of that validation, and the infusion of political clout, these employers are actually encouraging their employees to join the union—a move that’s basically unheard-of. Now the big question is whether the dispensary owners will follow through and negotiate fair contracts with their workers, including things like health insurance.