Happy Labor Day from TWB! If you get a chance to talk to a marijuana industry laborer, thank them for their hard work. It’s not easy to work in the marijuana industry, where there are many grey areas and seemingly constant harassment by the government. I have had more than a few friends get arrested for working at a medical marijuana dispensary, and while they didn’t get charged, they did lose their jobs, which is always a bad thing.
Also, if you see a labor union member, encourage them to support marijuana reform and encourage their union to join the fight. I have been a member of a labor union before, as has most of my family at one point or another. I studied labor unions quite a bit in college, with one of my favorite classes involving a mock labor agreement battle. Those were good times for this public policy nerd! As the initiative campaign signature gathering season kicks into full gear, and since it’s Labor Day, I think it’s important to discuss the role of labor unions and the marijuana movement.
A little known fact, my home state of Oregon was the first to pass legislation officially approving Labor Day. I’ve heard rumors that Oregon is pretty liberal, so that probably doesn’t come as a surprise to most people outside of the state. Over 1 in 10 workers in America are members of a union, making unions a significant force in a lot of areas of politics.
The main purpose of a union is to protect the worker and fight for their rights, wages, etc. I have always thought that marijuana reform falls in line with unions’ missions, especially when I was working in the public sector fearing that I could get fired at any time because I was consuming marijuana. After all, I was a very productive worker, and I felt that the union should protect productive workers.
Union’s are important to marijuana reform initiatives because unions have members. At the least, those members can provide their ‘yes’ vote at the ballot box, which is significant alone. But many members can provide more than just their vote. They can lend their voices and picket signs, they can contact everyone they know inside and outside of the union, and provide many more vital functions to a campaign.
Sometimes, but not always, a union endorsement also involves campaign donations. It can either be a large check from the union, or pass-along money from it’s members. Money makes the political world go round, and labor unions can definitely help out in that area. One of the most important things that a labor union endorsement can provide to a marijuana reform campaign is credibility. There are no doubt members of a union that don’t consume marijuana, and probably wouldn’t vote for reform if they didn’t know the union they are a member was urging a ‘yes’ vote. It’s likely the same goes for their friends and family members.
A union endorsement for a marijuana reform initiative also establishes credibility in the political arena. A lot of people either respect or fear unions, and as a result, will think twice about opposing the initiative in the media or in debates. For example, I had a college professor that has never consumed marijuana and didn’t take the issue seriously, but is now all about legalization efforts because of the union endorsements the movement has received since 2010 (I graduated from college in 2009).
Marijuana reform is a two way street for unions, as there are many benefits to the union itself when it offers up an endorsement. Medical marijuana in the workplace is an emerging labor issue, with more and more hardworking employees getting terminated for medicine that is legal under state laws, but not federal. Unions that are already endorsing marijuana reform are getting out ahead of this issue because they no doubt see the importance of such pursuits.
The marijuana movement likely offers up a lot of potential union members that otherwise wouldn’t have ever considered doing something like that. Not all people of course (me being an example) but there are no doubt some. I would point out the that the UFCW received quite a few new members in LA when cannabis workers there decided to unionize. I think it’s not too much of a stretch to assume that at least some of those members were first timers to the union arena. With union memberships decreasing across the country, the marijuana movement could bolster some union membership numbers.
If there’s one thing that labor union heads need to recognize about the marijuana movement, it’s that the labor section of the movement is growing exponentially. If unions are not pursuing the marijuana movement for strategic purposes, then they will have to eventually court the movement out of practical purposes. Wherever there are lots of laborers, unions will follow and benefit, especially in an industry that is so new and in need of structure. Also, a lot of the people and organizations that oppose marijuana reform are often locking horns with labor unions, so an alliance seems natural.
Are you a member of a union? Has your union endorsed a marijuana reform initiative? If not, have you tried to get them to? How did it go? HAVE A GREAT AND SAFE LABOR DAY!