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Latest News - March 2012

March 22, 2012
Medical Pot Dispensary Workers in Venice Join Powerful Labor Union
Source: Venice-MarVista Patch
By: Paul Chavez

The Venice Beach Care Center is among more than 10 local medical marijuana dispensaries now represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 union.

The local arm of the nation's largest retail workers union announced Thursday that it has successfully unionized more than 100 hundred workers at Los Angeles-area medical marijuana dispensaries, including the Venice Beach Care Center.

The powerful United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 has become the bargaining unit for employees at more than 10 medical marijuana dispensaries, said Mike Shimpock, a UFCW Local 770 spokesman. The union and the dispensaries already have started bargaining on labor contracts, Shimpock said.

UFCW Local 770 also represents other health care workers, including pharmacists and lab technicians, as well as grocery workers, Shimpock said.

"This is the next step in professionalizing and stabilizing this new sector of the health care industry," said Rick Icaza, president of UFCW Local 770, in a statement Wednesday. "Unionization and collective bargaining bring better training, less turnover, and more stability to the health care industry. This is a positive step towards successfully integrating compassionate care into our system of health care."

The union's intention has been to deal only with so-called "white hat" medical marijuana dispensaries that have proper permits, submit payroll taxes, have financial transparency and are diligent about verifying patient status and eligibility, Shimpock said.

"Whether the dispensaries remain in form the way they are now or another form in the future, we feel they are here to stay with medical cannabis and we want to bring it under the mainstream portion of the health care industry by unionizing it," Shimpock said.

Workers at the dispensaries typically earn between $12 and $17 an hour and usually don't have health care benefits. Health care benefits will be one of the issues addressed during contract bargaining, Shimpock said.

The union also has "neutrality agreements" with other dispensaries that allow it to reach out to workers without employer interference. If a majority of workers agree to accept the union at their dispensary, they can be represented by UFCW Local 770 without going through the National Labor Relations Board process, Shimpock said.

“My coworkers and I have joined UFCW Local 770 because we want to protect and preserve good jobs and access to affordable healthcare that responsible medical cannabis dispensaries can provide,” said Alex James Rogers, an employee of the Venice Beach Care Center, in a Wednesday statement.

The UFCW in October 2011 issued a press release urging federal prosecutors to end their crackdown of medical marijuana dispensaries in California.



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