Earlier this month, 40 marijuana growers in Oakland, California, joined the Teamsters union. This is good news for two reasons: 1) It's a nice sign of legitimacy for the folks trying to legally grow and sell weed in California, and 2) It means the Teamsters must be really desperate for members.
The new members work as gardeners, trimmers and cloners for Marjyn Investments LLC, an Oakland business that contracts with medical marijuana patients to grow their pot for them.
Their newly negotiated two-year contract provides them with a pension, paid vacation and health insurance. Their current wages of $18 per hour will increase to $25.75 an hour within 15 months, according to the union….
The work can be difficult and the hours long—and trimmers cannot count on federal labor regulations to protect them while doing work banned under federal law.
On the flip side, the union probably can't count on the National Labor Relations Board to play its traditional role if there's a conflict between the union and management:
Michael Leong, assistant regional director for the Oakland office of the National Labor Relations Board, said he did not know of any case in which the federal government had been asked to mediate a dispute involving a business that was blatantly illegal under federal law.
One reason that the organizing process went smoothly at Marjyn is because the firm is hoping that unionization will give them an advantage in the city's upcoming permitting process for large-scale growing operations. And the stakes are super high (sorry) for growers in California who have the capability to ramp up their scale significantly, because right now polls are showing a slight majority in favor of Prop. 19, which would legalize the sale and use of marijuana in the state and make it subject to taxation.
While the Teamsters haven't officially declared a position on the proposition, many other unions have come out in favor. As Reason noted last week, California's service workers union is backing Prop 19. The SEIU has 700,000 members, who will join members of Northern California ILWU, UFCW's Western Council, and UFCW Local 5 in supporting legalization.
If SEIU backing of Prop 19 was something of a surprise, at least one opponent won't shock you at all: The alcohol industry just dumped $10,000 into the main group opposing the proposition.
Last fall, Reason.tv asked whether weed farmers might campaign against legalization of their own product: