New York Union Hopes To Bring Cannabis Workers On Board

If New York State moves to legalize recreational marijuana in 2019, one labor advocate wants to see cannabis workers unionized.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) hopes to fold the "many thousands of workers" who will be involved in New York's purported legal cannabis industry into their ranks. And based on the size of that prospective workforce, unionizing the industry could add a lot of muscle to the labor movement in New York.

"It's going to be big," RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum told New York Post, adding that his organization will ensure that employees in the new industry are treated right. "We think the best way to create decent jobs is through unionization."

Applebaum hopes RWDSU's success in representing New York's several hundred medical marijuana workers will encourage employees in the recreational space to sign on. He says NY medical marijuana workers earn $27 an hour, and have excellent healthcare coverage. RWDSU also has an affiliation with United Food and Commercial International Union, which represents tens of thousands of marijuana works in other states.

Adding cannabis workers would also complement the union's current members, which includes employees at sex shops as well as music stores. "It's sex, drugs and rock and roll!" Applebaum joked.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo put legalizing recreational cannabis on his platform when he ran for re-election to office last month. In an address from mid-December Cuomo said he was putting legalization on his list of top priorities for the new year—though he has yet to outline what exactly this may look like.

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Few other entrepreneurs in the cannabis space have their hands in quite as many ventures as Lorne Gertner. Currently dubbed the "godfather of the Canadian cannabis industry," Gertner told Civilized, "If we could live through normalization, we could change the world." Hailing from the fashion industry, this Toronto native says he's on a mission to "make the world a better place through cannabis and design excellence." The only catch is, well, normalizing cannabis — and that's where Gertner's keen eye for style comes in. "In the old days, you were going to be different or you were going to be normal," said Thom Antonio, Gertner's friend, creative director, and collaborator of 35 years.

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