On January 1, adults in California will be able to walk into a shop and buy Marijuana products for recreational use, a development that is going to cause the industry to boom. As investors and owners get ready to cash in, an effort is underway to unionize marijuana workers. The hope is to give them more protections and a say in the rapidly expanding industry. Hugs Dispensary is one of a handful in the state that is unionized. Because it is a Union shop, workers have performance reviews, scheduled wage increases and benefits like health care. In 2011, CEO of Hugs David Spradlin brought in the UFCW Union. “I come from construction. I come from the working class, I know how it feels to have your job and your livelihood in someone else’s hand. My hope has always been that the cannabis industry doesn’t turn into 7-Eleven. I want it to turn into something that people want to get into and have a career in, something that a person right out of high school can go into and get a good job.” James Araby is Executive Director of the UFCW Western States Council and he said that generally in the marijuana business, there’s a lot of worker abuse. “We’ve found in this industry that many workers were paid in cash or product or not paid at all, that many of their rights were violated and that some might not know that they even have rights. They can be working 12 hour days and not be getting paid overtime.” Araby said there is an opportunity right now for the Union to carve out protections for workers. “There are a few times in history when a Labor Union can be at the beginning of the dawn of a new multimillion-dollar industry and play a direct role in helping shape it, Only a handful of dispensaries in California are unionized, but Araby said the UFCW is reaching out now to get other cannabis operations on board. “UFCW is definitely interested in organizing workers from seed to sale.”
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