Marijuana growers unionizing under Teamsters banner

The Teamsters Union logo with a picture of cannabis leaves superimposed on top.

Photo Credit: CC BY/Progressive States Network; ThinkStock

Organized labor is feeling the effects of the recession and needs to bolster its membership ranks. The Teamsters Union is no exception, and the union is looking with expectant eye toward what is proving to be a growth industry in America. According to the Associated Press, the industry that has Teamsters high on possibility is marijuana.

Teamsters will unionize marijuana growers

In September, Teamsters picked up 40 new members, all of them marijuana growers. While it has not been established with certainty, speculation is that the members are from California, which has the most permissive medical marijuana laws in the nation. Regardless, there are real concerns as to how Teamsters will protect the rights of members whose work constitutes a federal crime.

Lou Marchetti, Teamsters liaison between the newly signed growers and Oakland, Calif., Teamsters Local 70, told the AP that he hadn’t planned on such a thing as organizing marijuana workers when he joined the union 34 years ago.

“This is a whole new ballgame,” he said.

Marchetti was quite clear when he informed the news agency that Teamsters would not get involved with marijuana growers in California if they believed the business was not operating within the bounds of state law.

Marjyn Investments LLC provides the Teamsters with work

Gardening, trimming and even cloning are jobs held by employees of Marjyn Investments LLC, a company that contracts with medical marijuana patients to grow marijuana plants. The Teamsters Union helped the employees with a two-year contract. They now have pensions, paid vacation and health insurance. In turn, wages will rise from $18 per hour to $25.75 per hour over the next 15 months, according to Teamsters Local 70.

Weeding out the little snags of growing pot

Growing marijuana plants is against federal law, although states like California do allow the enterprise for controlled medicinal purposes. However, if the federal government decided to crack down on Marjyn Investments, Marchetti is uncertain exactly how Teamsters would respond. For that matter, the AP states that marijuana trimmers have an arduous job, and federal law would not step in on their behalf if trimmers happened to be subjected to abusive labor practices. Michael Leong, assistant regional director for National Labor Relations Board in the Oakland area, isn’t even sure if the Teamster marijuana growers will be classified as farm workers. If such is the case, they’d fall outside the jurisdiction of the NLRB.

Marijuana dispensaries grow while cultivation remains ‘in the shadows’

California law has allowed marijuana dispensaries to grow into a booming new business, but existing laws have not fully defined just how cultivation operations like Marjyn Investments LLC should be regulated. There is definite interest from applicants wanting to break into the field, but how applicable labor standards should be applied is a work in progress. At this point, one of the only things that is clear as applicants await their permits to open shop is that membership in the Teamsters Union is not required in order to operate.

Sources:

Associated Press

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