By Steve Elliott
At least one labor union has begun to organize workers in Oregon's marijuana industry.
United Food & Commercial Workers Local 555 recently negotiated a three-year contract for employees at a Portland dispensary, and the union hopes to broker similar deals across the state as the cannabis dispensary takes off, according to Local 55 secretary-treasurer Jeff Anderson, reports George Rede at The Oregonian.
The initial contract provides for wages starting at $15 an hour for cashiers, $20 an hour for trimmers and up to $32 an hour for master cultivators at Stoney Brothers dispensary. Paid holidays and vacation days are also guaranteed in the contract, along with pension contributions and employer-subsidized health insurance.
"Our UFCW International Union has been involved in cannabis organizing for six to eight years, much of it in northern California involving medical dispensaries," Anderson said. The union represents about 3,000 marijuana workers in 10 legal and medical states and D.C., according to Anderson.
Union officials estimated the cannabis industry could expand to as many as 7,000 workers in Oregon. "Our goal is to have a couple thousand organized in the next five years," Anderson said.
Stoney Brothers president Trevor Reed approached Oregon union officials himself. "I'm a socialist at heart," Reed said. "I knew if I tied my hands to a contract, I would pay a living wage and if I didn't, I may or may not."