Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Not-So-High Times for the UFCW

In California, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) has a multi-year ongoing campaign to organize workers in the budding retail marijuana industry. In 2011, UFCW organizers appeared with dispensary owners calling for San Jose to allow more dispensaries to open and be unionized by UFCW. Pot shops also hoped that closer alignment with the union would ease threatened pressure from the Obama Administration, which had vowed a federal crackdown on the grey-market businesses.

It seems some UFCW bosses, however, had different reasons to curry favor with pot shops. Federal investigators have charged Daniel Rush, an organizing coordinator with the national UFCW’s “cannabis division” who was paid $131,765 from member dues in 2014, with taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks from pot industry businessmen. The East Bay Express gives a detailed accounting of the allegations, while SFGate reports:

From 2010 to 2014, Rush received money or other items of value from people representing the employers of potential union members, in violation of federal law, authorities said. The affidavit says Rush borrowed $600,000 in cash from a marijuana dispensary operator but was unable to repay the debt.

In exchange for forgiveness of this personal debt, Rush and an attorney he works with “took steps to provide various labor benefits to the (dispensary operator), including union support for opening dispensaries and reducing or eliminating pressure to unionize dispensary workers,” the complaint says.

Rush isn’t the only union boss in trouble this week. In New Jersey, former International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 164 Business Manager Richard Dressel had his convictions for embezzlement reinstated by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. Prosecutors argued that Dressel created a program within the union to direct a no-bid contract to his girlfriend, and the Third Circuit ruled that jurors were within their rights to convict him of embezzlement.

Categories: Crime & CorruptionUFCW