Looking out for #1

sf weeklyAlthough the UFCW is very eager to collect dues from marijuana industry workers, some question whether the union provides sufficient benefits.

More and more industry leaders see the union as an opportunistic outsider with one chief concern: the union. There are rumors that unless UFCW is included in the plans to legalize next year, it will work to block legalization entirely. The relationship is so uncomfortable that when a union lobbyist working on statewide policy paid a visit to a San Francisco dispensary, the shop’s executive director — who also happens to be a sitting Democratic politician — took him aside to say, “Let me tell you why we don’t need a union.”…

“They haven’t really hit their stride in providing benefits to their members,” says Brendan Hallinan, a San Francisco attorney who specializes in cannabis businesses, including one dispensary that agreed to sign up with the union, only to have organizers disappear until after their permit was won. “They were, I hate to say it, disorganized,” Hallinan says. “I have yet to hear anybody say that they received much benefit from being in the union.”

The UFCW lobbied successfully to deny a permit to a marijuana dispensary run by someone that the union was unhappy with.

Last fall, union honchos also pushed the city’s Planning Commission to deny a permit for a second dispensary location for SPARC, one of the city’s leading cannabis shops, which like other clubs is finding itself unable to meet the enormous demand for its products. (At the time, SPARC’s executive director, Robert Jacob, was the mayor of Sebastopol in Sonoma County, and had apparently failed to return a political favor.) The SPARC permit was denied, no small setback in a city where medical cannabis dispensary permits are so valuable that existing permit-holders are reportedly entertaining — and rejecting — six-figure offers for their permits… The episode led some to loudly question UFCW’s purpose.

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