Friday, March 30, 2012

Weed Workers Unite!

Weed Workers Woof! (Image by Chris Yarzab, from Flickr)
Marijuana workers at 14 dispensaries in Los Angeles have formed the “medical cannabis and hemp division” of the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 770, the Insurance Journal wrote this week. UFCW also represents grocery clerks, pharmacists and health care workers.

Local 770 President, Rick Icaza, said the union would use its political weight to pressure officials to find an alternative to a total ban on dispensaries. Los Angeles currently has a cap on the total number of dispensaries and, despite a state law legalizing marijuana for medicinal use, the dispensaries are still considered illegal under federal law. Roughly 140 dispensaries in more than 20 Southern California cities have been threatened by federal authorities since October, 2011.

Considering their fragile quasi-legal status, it is encouraging to see cannabis workers unionize and fight for the wellbeing of their clients and for the preservation of their jobs. However, if they limit themselves to using “political clout” and fighting for their existence, they are nothing more than a professional association.

Despite their public image as dens of debauchery, dispensaries are still businesses. Most marijuana workers are still employees and wage slaves, with compensation and working and living conditions issues similar to other workers. They still have an inferior social and economic status to the capitalist class. Many cannot afford to own their own homes. And many don’t even have health or pension benefits, things that Icaza hopes the union will be able to win for members.

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