by David Downs
The nation's most high-profile cannabis education group, Oaksterdam University, boosted its legitimacy and ended a long-simmering internal issue today with an announcement that the school is unionizing about one hundred jobs. A unionized Oaksterdam benefits from a closer relationship with one cornerstone of the Democratic party going into a tough fall fight over Oaksterdam's related ballot initiative, Tax Cannabis 2010.
Local union UFCW Local 5 announced Thursday that employees at Oaksterdam and five related enterprises have voted to join them, and separate elections are also being verified at cannabis hydroponics retailer iGrow and cultivation company AgraMed. Oakland councilmember and potential mayoral candidate Rebecca Kaplan is scheduled to join medical cannabis workers at a news conference Friday to announce a new coalition centered around local cannabis worker's rights.
Mike Henneberry, communications director for Local 5's Hayward office told the SFAppeal:
"It's a very big deal. ... People [and other dispensaries] who wouldn't even have thought about unionizing are now thinking about it. ... And we have a lot of political connections."
Oaksterdam founder Rich Lee will need them. He's sunk millions into the Tax Cannabis 2010 ballot initiative, which would regulate pot like alcohol. Voters like the concept but are split down the middle on the initiative. New union friends cannot hurt it. Furthermore, former employees of Oaksterdam have gone public in the past with their anger over the non-union shop, set in the heart of the West Coast's union stronghold. The best way to stop a potential enemy is, of course, to make him a friend.
The press conference is Friday May 28 at 1 p.m.