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San Jose union begins organizing pot workers (Read More…)

Joe Garofoli, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, May 28, 2010

A major California labor union is organizing medical cannabis workers in Oakland, a move that analysts say will help efforts to legalize marijuana and open the door for the union to organize thousands more workers if state voters pass a measure in November to allow recreational marijuana use by adults.

The 26,000-member United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5 in San Jose is believed to be the first union in the country to organize workers in a marijuana-related business. It is considering new job classifications including “bud tender” - a sommelier of sorts who helps medical marijuana users choose the right strain for their ailment.

“Union bud tender,” said Carl Anderson, executive director of AMCD, an Oakland nonprofit medical cannabis dispensary that is going through the city’s permitting process. The dispensary has 15 freshly minted union employees as it readies for an expected opening in December. “With full union health benefits and a pension,” Anderson said.
With roughly 100 cannabis industry workers in Oakland now in the process of unionizing, the move is mutually beneficial for labor and marijuana advocates.
The union, whose membership is dominated by commercial grocery store workers, retail clerks and some agricultural workers, gets to establish a toehold in a growing new pool of cannabis workers.
While its membership has been stable compared with those representing other sectors of the economy, the local’s rolls fell 5 percent last year as a result of layoffs and reduced hours.
Many new jobs foreseen

SEIU Chief Henry Vows $4 Million to Organize Bank, Grocery Jobs (Read More…)

May 08, 2010
By Holly Rosenkrantz

Mary Kay Henry, elected today as president of the Service Employees International Union, pledged to spend $4 million organizing employees in businesses such as banks and supermarkets.

“Working people are facing hardships that we haven’t seen in generations,” Henry said on a conference call with reporters after the executive board picked her to replace Andy Stern.
Henry said she has “a fire in her belly” for fighting management interference in labor organizing efforts. Henry said she will fight such efforts by “creating complaints” with the National Labor Relations Board.

Henry, 52, takes over the 2.2-million-member union from Stern, who cultivated close ties to President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress during 14 years as president. Henry said she met Obama two years ago at a Democratic presidential candidates’ forum and is seeking to arrange a meeting with White House officials “but has no idea when that will occur.”

The $4 million fund will be used to organize industries that have traditionally not had employee representation, Henry said. She cited banks, grocery stores, biotechnology companies and independent contractors as prospects, without mentioning specific firms. The union said it spends about $250 million annually to help local officials on organizing.

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