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Some say the organized-labor movement is going to pot — but at least one union is looking to pot for its salvation.
US labor unions continue to shrink. Last year, just 11.3 percent of American workers belonged to a union, the lowest share in a century and nearly half what it was just 30 years ago.
Anyone sinking so far would grab any line to keep from drowning, even if that line is made of hemp. And some labor leaders are eyeing legal marijuana as a source for new members.
The United Food and Commercial Workers union represents employees at three medical-marijuana facilities in Los Angeles, and plans to organize in another 49 over the coming year.
UFCW, one of the country’s largest and most powerful labor organizations, with 1.3 million members nationwide, already claims some 3,000 members in the marijuana industry — an industry it would very much like to see expand.
Reuters reports: “In the November elections, UFCW operatives . . . helped get-out-the-vote efforts in Colorado, where voters approved a measure that made possession of one ounce or less of the drug legal for anyone 21 and older.” Washington state voters OK’d a similar measure on recreational pot.
And UFCW is loving it. Dan Rush, head of its “cannabis division” (not an arm of the Jamaican Army) boasts,“Since Election Day,we’vehad a rush to join the union. . . I can’t keep up.”
And 18 states and the District of Columbia allow medical marijuana, sosome analysts are certainly bullish on pot futures: Sea Change Strategies, an independent research firm, thinks medical marijuana alone could be a $9 billion industry within three years.
No wonder unions are chomping at the bit. Having killed Detroit and Hostess (among many others), and increasingly denied access to the cookie jar by the growing number of states that have passed “right to work” laws, they’re desperate for something new to munch on.
Of course, unions can only organize where pot is legal: Other folks organize illegal dealers — namely, gangs.
Even so, Rush & Co. could be in for more of a challenge than they bargained for. For starters, drug dealers, like any businesspeople, are well aware of unions’ tendency to bleed the organizations they “organize.”
One Denver marijuana-dispensary owner told Reuters that he’s “worried that having a union shop would hurt the value of his business by driving up employment costs.”
Then, too, the words “organize” and “marijuana” are seldom seen together for a reason: It’s hard enough to organize a group of pot . . . “enthusiasts” to make a munchies run, much less form a union.
Still, you see why they have to try: Folks are fleeing union in droves thanks to labor reforms in states like Wisconsin and Michigan.
But labor leaders shouldn’tturn to drugs: Then they’d just have two problems.