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Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Marijuana Begins to Unionize

Browsing through an edition of the Wall Street Journal from about a week ago, I discovered an article titled "Teamsters Organize Medical Marijuana Growers." Stu Woo, the author of the article, spoke on what he perceives to be the "first pot growers to unionize in the country," stating that around "40 employees of an Oakland, Calif., marijuana-growing company joined the Teamsters union earlier this month" (Woo A8).

I was quite surprised with this news, learning after a bit of browsing that this unionization had been progressively under way since May of this year (AOL online). Thanks to the ratification of a two-year contract, it appears that the workers will not only see a wage increase within the next year and a half, but they will begin to receive health-care and pension benefits as well. And as for the employers? They supposedly love it, citing that this will help solidify and protect their workforce.

Now, while there are varying opinions concerning the ethics/ economics/ politics/ (insert debatable topic here) with regards to marijuana and the legalization of such, it is becoming more and more difficult to ignore not only those who argue over their personal freedoms and rights to choice, but additionally, with this unionization of the workers who are beginning to make a livelihood from the cultivation of what is still quite illegal under federal law, one has to ponder a number of questions. Will this unionization last, or is this a situation where Olson's theory will inevitably prove correct once again? If so, how will it affect neighboring cities/ counties/ states? What implications or influence will this newly-formed alliance have on not only the future of the employer-employee relationship within this industry, but also regarding sentiments and opinions across the country? And finally, what kind of impact will this have on federal law? Even Coloradans can relate to what seems to be a changing of the times since we now live amongst dispensaries ourselves.

I was intrigued by this article, particularly since we are hot off the heels of Olson's dissertation examining the vitality, lifespan, and influence of similar large groups. My lack of knowledge regarding any selective incentives leads me to skepticism in terms of this group's survivability, but just because I couldn't find anything, it doesn't necessarily mean that there are none whatsoever.

This could be the start of a trend, but I guess we'll have to wait and see just how many growers actually choose to unionize, especially if it eventually spans the country (as well as how many growers choose to simply 'free ride').


Woo, Stu, "Teamsters Organize Medical Marijuana Growers," Wall Street Journal, September
22, 2010, A8.

"Calif. Medical Marijuana Workers Vote to Join Union," last modified June 6, 2010.

"And as for the employers? They supposedly love it, citing that this will help solidify and protect their workforce."

I think this is an interesting assertion, and probably because my first intuition would be than an employer would not want to be forced to bargain with a union. But, perhaps in this case, there is some Logic to this. Borrowing on our discussions about Olson's book, can you find an explanation for why the employers in this case might like a worker union? I'm also curious about what "solidify and protect" means.
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