Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Unionization Goes to Pot

Marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles are gambling that labor unions can keep them in business.

With the Obama administration threatening to shut down pot shops across California, LA proprietors are seeking employee unionization as a way to head the White House off at the pass.

The owners, the Huffington Post reports, “turned to the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union as an ally in seeking to protect the jobs they offer and as an advocate at City Hall to fight the ban.”

Pro-union owners say they hope the UFCW will protest the proposed ban and impose standards on an industry in which many owners still operate without licenses. They also hope it will make their businesses appear more legitimate.

Since their businesses are actually illegal under federal law, an increase in apparent legitimacy is about the most pot proprietors can hope for.

That means unionization puts unions and the White House in an awkward position. At a time when union membership is at historic lows, union leaders don’t want to be seen turning away enthusiastic workers. At the same time, they likely don’t want to pick a fight with the president at a particularly important juncture in his reelection campaign.

For the president’s part, he finds himself struggling yet again to thread the needle on drug enforcement. Having rejected his earlier approach—leaving dispensaries be so long as they operated in accordance with state law—he now must decide between laying off unionized workers or leaving federal law unenforced.

Of course, both the president and unions could simply make plain that workers engaged in business banned by the government won’t get their support. That’s the likeliest outcome in an election year.

Categories: Center for Union Facts