UFCW is Spending Millions to Persuade Lawmakers to Allow Cannabis Workers to Unionize

Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 555 is throwing millions of dollars into a campaign to persuade lawmakers to ease the way for cannabis workers throughout Oregon to unionize.

The UFCW union has spent $2.4 million dollars collecting more than 163,000 signatures to qualify a measure on the November ballot that will require cannabis processors and dispensary owners to allow retail and grocery workers to unionize without interference.


No Shortage of Money to Fund Campaign

UFCW is one of the largest labor unions in the state representing thousands of retail and grocery workers and there appears to be no shortage of money for this campaign. According to Michael Selvaggio, UFCW Local 555′s political director, ‘we have a deep well to pull from,’ adding that UFCW is ‘extraordinarily confident’ that its campaign will meet with success.

Last year, the UFCW failed to convince lawmakers to pave the way for workers who use cannabis to unionize but last Friday handed election officials more than 163,000 signatures, well above the 117 173 required to get the proposal on the ballot.


A Labor Peace Agreement Will Have to be Signed by Cannabis Processors and Retailers

If successful, the UFCW measure will require cannabis processors and retailers to sign a labor ‘peace agreement’ with a union to obtain a state license, and the agreement requires management to remain neutral if employees want to unionize.

Presently, vague federal laws have enabled employers to ignore workers’ rights, says Miles Eshaia, UFCW spokesman, in a Press release. Eshaia says when cannabis was legalized, Oregon failed to build in worker protection clauses that are effective in other states, such as California, New Jersey, and New York.

The UFCW measure will acknowledge workers’ rights as part of the licensure process, he explains.

Furthermore, the proposed UFCW measure in more labor-friendly than last year’s bill which ensured that strikes and work stoppages could not be used by unions to settle disputes if they signed a peace agreement. The current UFCW proposed ballot measure makes no such provision.

While Selvaggio is unaware of any organized opposition to the proposed measure, he points out that objections were previously raised by powerful interests such as Oregon Business and Industry (OBI), the largest business coalition in the state. OBI spokesman, Erik Lukens, says the organization is monitoring the UFCW measure.

But UFCW’s Selvaggio says the union is ready to fight back hard should any opposition again arise.

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