Union Makes Headway in Oregon’s Cannabis Industry

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A major union has recently carved out a tiny foothold in Oregon’s cannabis market and hopes to increase its membership in the state dramatically down the road.

United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) now represents a handful of workers at  the West Salem Cannabis and Hi Casual Cannabis dispensaries. The union, however, says that more than 40 marijuana businesses in Oregon have reportedly expressed interest in joining its local chapter, which covers the entire state as well as southwestern Washington State.

Provisions in contracts for workers represented by the UFCW include wage guarantees, regular raises, healthcare, safety requirements and retirement options. Union advocates say that these guarantees are especially important in an industry where employees don’t yet have federal worker protections.

The UFCW is a national organization with 1.3 million members in the United States and Canada, including about 3,000 workers in the medical and recreational marijuana sectors. It has even created a division called Cannabis Workers Rising.

Cannabis businesses whose employees unionize can experience benefits – such as improved morale – and drawbacks, including higher costs.

Lance Compa, a senior lecturer at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations, told the Statesman-Journal that he’s not surprised cannabis workers are unionizing – just at how fast it’s happening.

Workers in the auto and other 20th century industries took decades to unionize. “In these new sectors, it’s being telescoped into a matter of months or one or two years,” Compa said.