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Pot Shop Employees High-Five Union for Back Pay

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Union and California Pot Shops Settle Back Pay for Weed Workers

Oakland, CAIt doesn’t matter how many times a California business changes its name or sells to another company—a union contract stays put. Case in point: the United Food and Commercial Workers, (UFCW) pressured two pot shops on behalf of their weed workers, despite the dispensaries changing hands a few times, and they came to a $75,000 settlement over back pay, specifically union raises.

Three companies, Harvest Health and Recreation, High Times Holdings and Have a Heart, avoided paying union raises to their 50 or so employees since last January, when it all started. (The companies changed hands—a few times. Have a Heart sold to Interurban Capital Group Inc., which then flipped the pot shops to Harvest which turned around three months later and sold them to High Times.)

Got that? So back in January, weed workers at Have a Heart pot shops – one in Santa Cruz and the other in Oakland—negotiated a contract with Interurban. According to California’s Local 5 of UFCW, the contract was initially rejected by both Arizona-based Harvest and California-headquartered High Times.

Easy to understand how the union contract went under the radar. And during all this back-and-forth, employees were hired and fired like they were at-will employees. But the union continued to keep pressure on the companies, which culminated in a $75,000 settlement. (The case is HAH 5 LLC et al. and United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 5 AFL-CIO, case number 32-CA-259754.)

“There are a lot of rapid changes going on in the cannabis industry with ownership, and that's to be expected in a growing industry," UFCW Local 5 spokesman Jim Araby told Law360. "But when we organize workers and get an agreement with an employer, we're going to hold any future employers to those agreements."

In an email to Marijuana Business Daily, a spokesperson for Harvest wrote that, “Despite the brief duration of Harvest’s involvement, we made the decision to make a minor contribution to the settlement in the interest of reaching an agreement and moving forward.”

Perhaps Union recognition adds more credence, as in legality, to the marijuana industry. Outside recognition, including in part by the UFCW, also brings corporate money. Owners may not even smoke the stuff but their goal is to make maximum profits. “There are now big businesses involved, big investors that don’t want to deal with labor,” Araby told Rolling Stone Magazine. “It was the marijuana movement, now it’s the cannabis industry.”

Since 2010 the UFCW has tried to align with the recreational marijuana industry. This union, the most influential union in the cannabis business, represents hundreds of California workers in the cannabis industry across the San Francisco Bay area and is one of the fastest growing unions of cannabis workers in the country. “The local union is a part of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents more than 10,000 workers in the cannabis industry nationwide,” according to its website.

“Belonging to a union gives employees a seat at the table,” Araby continued. “The union provides a voice at the workplace and a political voice, too, at the local and state level.” And when the union organizes workers and they reach an agreement with an employer, they mean to keep such agreements.

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