California’s Proposition 19, the marijuana legalization initiative that will appear on November’s ballot, got a big boost Wednesday as it won the endorsement of the council which oversees the political work of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union in the state.
“I’m expecting to garner the endorsements of most of the major unions in California over the next several weeks,” said Dan Rush, who oversees special operations for the UFCW, Local 5, and has pushed efforts to gain union support for the measure, reports John Hoeffel of the Los Angeles Times.
Local 5 has assigned Rush to work on the initiative. “I’ll be handling the strategy to bring in other unions, and their endorsements and resources,” Rush said.
The local has around 26,000 members in California and has already started a drive to organize workers in the expanding marijuana industry, with about 100 of the pot workers already having joined as members.
Local 5, along with the union’s Western States Council, which coordinates political activities with union locals in California and four other states, endorsed Prop 19.
The endorsement was a natural outgrowth of the Council’s support for the medical marijuana initiative in 1996, according to Executive Director George Landers.
“We view Proposition 19 as an enhanced version of the previous proposition that creates taxable revenue, and produces jobs in agriculture, healthcare, retail and possibly textile,” Landers said.
The state’s unions could play a pivotal role in the Prop 19 campaign, if they commit substantial money and hours to the effort. Besides contributing cash, union workers often operate phone banks and campaign door-to-door for endorsed initiatives.
The support from unions also helps to drive home another central message of Prop 19 proponents, according to Hoeffel: That marijuana should be treated as a business that could create jobs and bring in much-needed tax dollars.