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Major Union Submits Signatures For Ballot Initiative To Require Oregon Marijuana Businesses To Have Labor Peace Agreements

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A regional chapter of a national labor union has submitted what they expect will be more than enough signatures to put an initiative on Oregon’s November ballot to mandate labor peace agreements within the marijuana industry.

United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 555 announced on Monday that it submitted more than 160,000 signatures to the secretary of state’s office to qualify their measure, which would effectively block union-busting activities by cannabis sector employers.

This comes after the legislature declined to enact a bill containing similar provisions as part of the 2023 session. UFCW lobbied for that legislation, and it decided to mount a campaign to let voters decide on the issue this year after that effort failed.

“Simply put, the ballot measure will require any cannabis dispensary or processor to enter into a labor peace agreement affirming the right of their workers to form a union if they so choose,” UFCW Local 555 spokesperson Miles Eshaia said. “When Oregon first legalized cannabis, it did not build in worker protections that other states, such as California, New York, and New Jersey did.”

“Because of vague federal laws, some employers have refused to acknowledge workers’ rights,” Eshaia said. “This measure makes such acknowledgement part of the licensure process.”

Failure to provide proof of a labor peace agreement would be grounds for a denial or revocation of a marijuana business license under the proposal. The agreement is defined as a contractually enforceable understanding that the employer must “remain neutral with respect to a bona fide labor organization’s representatives communicating with the employees of the applicant or the licensee about the rights afforded to such employees.”

Dan Clay, president of UFCW Local 555, said that “Oregon’s cannabis licensing process has a lot of holes, regulation is sloppy, and safety violations are rampant, forcing the better employers to compete against the rotten ones that freely cut corners.”

“Collectively bargained safety standards allow workers to enforce safety violations as a contractual issue,” he said. “In addition to improving worker’s rights, this measure will help to bring Oregon’s cannabis industry out of the dark, further legitimizing it.”

Sandy Humphrey, union secretary-treasurer, said marijuana workers in Oregon currently “lack the protections to speak out about safety and product standards.”

“We’ve heard the same stories from cannabis workers across the state. Toxic chemicals, unchecked pests and fire hazards plague the Oregon cannabis industry,” Humphrey said. “Employers are cutting corners at every step at the cost of workers and consumers.”

“When workers try to speak out about safety concerns or products that don’t meet state regulations, they’re met with intimidation because they lack the protections other workers have,” Humphrey continued. “The reality is, when you buy weed in Oregon, you don’t know if it meets basic consumer standards and you don’t know whose life was put in danger to make it.”

Oregon officials will have until August 5 to verify whether or not the union collected enough valid petitions for the initiative to make the ballot. At least 120,413 valid signatures are required for qualification.


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The local union pressed for legislators to enact a bill to codify the labor protections last year. After it was effectively killed by a top House Democrat, it announced that it would be leading a recall effort to oust him.

As labor unions fight for workers’ rights in multiple legalization states—from Rhode Island to Missouri—the national UFCW has also been involved in pushing for federal cannabis reform.

Specifically, UFCW has advocated for the urgent passage of a congressional bill to protect banks that work with state-legal marijuana businesses from being penalized by federal regulators, casting it as a public safety imperative in light of a surge of robberies targeting the cash-intensive industry.

Last year, Ademola Oyefeso, UFCW’s director of legislative and political action, testified at an initial Senate Banking Committee hearing on the cannabis bill.

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Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based managing editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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