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 on of my favorite classes involving a mock labor agreement battle. Those were good times for this public policy nerd! As the campaign 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 establishesÂ 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 Oregon’s Measure 80 because of the union endorsement it received earlier this year.
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? Below is a press release from when the UFCW endorsed the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act earlier this year. HAVE A GREAT AND SAFE LABOR DAY!
In a strongly supported board action, the leadership of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 555 has voted to endorse Initiative 9, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA). The initiative, which is looking likely to qualify for the November ballot, would tax and regulate cannabis for adults 21 years of age and older. The measure would also approve and help kick-start an agricultural hemp industry in Oregon.
“From retail to manufacturing to health care, we recognize that a vibrant hemp and cannabis industry in Oregon will create thousands of family-wage, sustainable jobs across the entire state,” said Dan Clay, Union President. “Our 19,000 members in Oregon and Southwest Washington deserve sensible laws that benefit them and their communities. Current laws are miserably failing that test so we are throwing our full support behind OCTA.”
Taxing and regulating cannabis and agricultural hemp will create thousands of Oregon jobs, from agricultural jobs in hard-hit rural counties to manufacturing and engineering jobs in big cities and small towns. With countless applications in fiber, biofuel, food and consumer health products, hemp is a natural fit for the Oregon sustainable economy. “We are honored to have the hard-working men and women of UFCW Local 555 on our team as we work to realize a practical, positive approach to cannabis and hemp,” said Paul Stanford, chief petitioner of the Cannabis Tax Act initiative and president of the Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp.
The demand for common-sense cannabis and hemp policies is bringing together a unique coalition of supporters; UFCW Local 555 joins a number of other prominent organizational endorsements, including both the Pacific Green Party and the Libertarian Party of Oregon.
For more information on the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, visit www.octa2012.org.