New York will be buzzing with union jobs thanks to upcoming pot industry

New York Post Union jobs in New York are about to be so dope. Thousands of well-paying gigs — with great benefits to boot — are on the horizon in the state, thanks to the recent legalization of recreational marijuana, labor leaders tell The Post. The Local 338 of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union — the so-called “cannabis union” whose patch is a bright green marijuana plant — is chomping at the bit to represent thousands of workers in the budding market. “We expect a decent-sized cannabis industry developing in New York State,” said Joseph Fontano, secretary-treasurer of the Long Island-based union. “I think the numbers of new workers will be significant. Will it be in the thousands? There will be a few thousand workers in the cannabis industry.” He added, “We’re going to push to organize as many of those facilities as possible.” The law legalizing the recreational use of marijuana was approved in March, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo has yet to launch the regulatory agency to issue licenses to grow and sell cannabis. A Rockefeller Institute study estimated the new weed industry could create 30,000 to 60,000 jobs. Under the new law, firms involved with cultivating, manufacturing, transporting or selling pot will have to have a “labor peace agreement” — enabling unions to organize all workers. Fontano’s union currently represents several hundred workers employed for cannabis that’s produced, distributed and sold for medicinal purposes — but the number of union jobs will grow exponentially when full-scale legalization of marijuana for the adult market is up and running. Local 338 currently has collective bargaining agreements with six different firms with contracts to grow and sell marijuana for medicinal purposes. And it’s negotiating a labor deal with a seventh company as it prepares to represent more pot workers in the recreational market. Workers represented by Local 338 who work at cannabis farms and manufacturing facilities make about $24 per hour. The average pay for workers at retail stores is $19.50 per hour. And pharmacists in the union earn about $65 per hour, which is competitive or even higher than chain drug stores. All of the labor contracts provide family medical coverage that includes dental and vision coverage with no co-premium, which is paid by companies for all full-time workers. Co-pays are $5 and $10 for doctor visits and prescriptions. “These are good-paying jobs with good benefits. The labor movement is always looking for an opportunity to grow. We’re very excited about the growth opportunities in the cannabis industry,” Fontano said. One union member, Cherish Quijano, 35, who works at the Curaleaf medical cannabis dispensary in Forest Hills, was certain the coming recreational marijuana market will provide plentiful jobs to more people like herself. “It’s definitely a great opportunity for jobs in general in the cannabis industry — whether medicinal or recreational. The market is going to expand tremendously,” said Quijano, who also takes medical cannabis to deal with pain after undergoing knee surgeries.  

Union workers get higher pay, if they can join

Reuters A Reuters analysis of two decades of wages for retail workers found that the pay advantage union workers have enjoyed over non-union employees in that sector is increasing. The weekly pay differential between union and nonunion workers widened from $20 in 2013 to more than $50 in 2019, according to the July 9 report. One reason for the widening pay gap is that unionized workers tend to work more hours per week and on a predictable schedule, while non-union workers often have a “variable schedule” that depends on how busy management thinks the store might be. One non-union worker commented in the Reuters report that his employer could increase his hourly rate without actually giving him a “raise” – because the pay increase can be offset by reducing his weekly hours at work. The analysis also further illustrates the connection between the decline of unionization in the United States and rising income inequality, spurred by a major shift in power from workers to corporations and a regulatory regime that leaves workers unprotected against employers' anti-union efforts. Even as signs emerge of a revitalized interest in organizing, the full picture of the state of the labor movement remains bleak Americans view unions more favorably now than they have since 2003, according to a separate Reuters report on May 13. Over 65% approve of unions. And workers won 72% of union elections in the past five years – meaning a majority voted in favor of unionizing. They won nine out of every 10 last year, amid concerns about workplace safety and health that were growing, or newly revealed, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s the highest win rate for workers seeking to unionize in a decade.

Labor of love: Gillibrand, Schumer call for passage of ‘Pro Act’ to expand worker rights

amNY New York Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer are fighting to give a voice to working people through the passage of the Right to Organize (Pro) Act. On June 18, both senators held a press conference in Midtown Manhattan with Mario Cilento, President of the New York State AFL-CIO; Stuart Appelbaum, Executive Vice President of UFCW and President of RWDSU; and Brian Fleurantin, Care Manager in the Health Home Department at Housing Works in Brooklyn to discuss the critical nature of protecting workers’ rights now more than ever. 

U.S. sues Amazon to force recall of dangerous products

MSN Government safety regulators are suing Amazon, looking to hold the world's biggest online retailer accountable for ridding its site of unsafe merchandise sold by third parties. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission voted 3-to-1 to approve the administrative complaint filed against Amazon on Wednesday. It seeks to force the online behemoth to stop selling potentially hazardous items, to work with CPSC staff on recalls and to directly notify and offer refunds to those who purchased them. Amazon, for example, sold more than 24,600 faulty carbon monoxide detectors that failed to activate when the gas was present, and nearly 400,000 hair dryers without mandated devices to protect against shock and electrocution, the CPSC said.

RETAIL, WHOLESALE AND DEPARTMENT STORE UNION ENDORSES PHIL MURPHY FOR GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 13, 2021 CONTACT: Chelsea Connor | [email protected] | 347-866-6259 (NEW YORK, NY) – Today, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) announced its endorsement of New Jersey Governor, Phil Murphy in his bid for a second term. The RWDSU represents approximately 10,000 workers in the retail, warehousing, healthcare, manufacturing and public sectors in New Jersey.  “The RWDSU is proud to endorse Governor Phil Murphy for re-election. His quick and responsive leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic provided critical guidance to keep our frontline members safe early in the health crisis. His robust legislative agenda during this first term, which included an expanded Paid Family Leave and Paid Sick Leave, also meant that our members had a means to continue providing for their families while caring for themselves or their family members while recovering from COVID-19. Yet, our unqualified support for Governor Murphy runs deeper than the pandemic. He gets working people and he gets the needs of our members who work in retail, healthcare, manufacturing and warehousing throughout the state of New Jersey – he raised the state’s minimum wage as a first order of business; he signed long-needed legislation to create safer staffing levels in nursing homes; and he supports stronger labor standards that create good paying union jobs in industries like warehousing and distribution centers. For these reasons and more, we stand with Governor Phil Murphy,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. “Over the past year, the working women and men of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union have kept New Jersey moving forward and displayed unflinching resilience in the face of a challenge like no other,” said Governor Murphy. “As our economy continues to bounce back from the pandemic, New Jersey will remain a leader in lifting up organized labor and ensuring working families receive the wages, benefits, and dignity they deserve. I'm incredibly grateful to have earned the RWDSU's endorsement for reelection.” # # # The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) represents 100,000 members throughout the United States. The RWDSU is affiliated with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW). For more information, please visit our website at www.rwdsu.org, Facebook:/RWDSU.UFCW Twitter:@RWDSU.

As pandemic recedes, appreciation for essential workers must not

by Stuart Appelbaum Amsterdam News  In June, as COVID infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths in New York hit new lows and vaccination rates rose above 70%, what had appeared to be a light at the end of the tunnel blossomed into a sunny summer day. Nearly all remaining restrictions on businesses and social gatherings were eliminated, and sights we hadn’t seen since early last year––crowded restaurants, full bars, and sold-out full-capacity concerts and sporting events at arenas––once again became commonplace in New York. As the pandemic hopefully continues to recede, the debt and gratitude we owe to our essential, frontline workers should not. These workers – among them, thousands of RWDSU heroes––stepped up to provide essential services for all of us when we were locked down during the worst public health crisis in our country in a century. These working men and women were thrust into a battle they did not choose, but it’s a responsibility they courageously accepted. These essential workers in food processing, health care, pharmacies, supermarkets and retail stores and more were there for us throughout this crisis––often at great personal cost to themselves and their families. For a brief while, as the pandemic raged, our society and employers recognized the sacrifices essential workers were making. An emphasis was placed on making workplaces safer, with proper PPE provided, and workplaces being kept clean and sanitized to an unprecedented degree. And many employers agreed to “hero pay” for their workers; additional hourly pay that recognized workers’ contributions. As infection rates continue to drop and vaccination rates continue to rise, it’s important to not lose sight of how important these essential workers are to our economy, our society, and our families. The way we view these workers needs to permanently change for the better, and so does their treatment. Essential workers deserve the higher pay and appreciation many of them received last year, and they deserve greater emphasis on the health and safety of their workplaces. At the RWDSU, we’ve always recognized the importance of these workers, and fought for greater pay and benefits and safer workplaces to protect them. During the pandemic, we’ve been a leading voice for hero pay as well as proper protection for workers so that they can do their jobs safely and go home to their loved ones. In our latest contracts for retail workers at Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s in New York, covering thousands of working men and women, language was included not only to protect workers and consumers from COVID-19, but also any future pandemics we may have to fight through. The lessons we’ve learned from the COVID-19 pandemic will not be forgotten. It’s no exaggeration to say that RWDSU members––and all essential workers––earned the title of “heroes” during the COVID-19 pandemic. We owe it to all of them to continue to fight for safer workplaces, better pay, and better benefits for the essential work they do not only during times of crisis, but every single day. Stuart Appelbaum is president, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Twitter: @sappelbaum; www.rwdsu.info

Welcome to dystopia: getting fired from your job as an Amazon worker by an app

The Guardian  We were initially anxious about the introduction of robots into our workforce because of the potential disappearance of manual labor jobs. Robots would take over factories, we were told, they’d drive our cars and trucks, and they would do all of the cleaning that janitorial and domestic workers are currently hired to do. But it turns out auto-pilots drive cars about as well as my cat when he’s drunk, and the way my friend’s Roomba always gets lost under the kitchen table, spinning uselessly, unable to find his way out, suggests we’ll still need people with brooms for a while now. Instead, the robots are here not to replace this lower tier of underpaid and undervalued work. They are here to smugly sit in the middle, monitoring and surveilling us, hiring and firing us. Amazon has recently replaced its middle management and human resources workers with artificial intelligence to determine when a worker has outlived their usefulness and needs to be let go. There is no human to appeal to, no negotiating with a bot. This is the most boring possible Terminator sequel, where the robots aren’t here to murder or enslave you but rather to text you snidely that you won’t need to come into work tomorrow or, for that matter, ever again. According to a report by Bloomberg, Flex drivers, who are Amazon contract workers and not granted the protections reserved for full-time employees, are being hired and fired via an app. A software program monitors each worker to determine whether they are working quickly enough, whether they are driving safely enough, and whether they are efficiently meeting their delivery quotas. That this program is rife with errors and punishes workers for things that are not their fault, from traffic problems to incorrect delivery directions, does not seem to concern Amazon. Workers have often complained about the unfair monitoring and lack of human oversight, but Amazon has maintained its system. This system works for Amazon because the US maintains a large population of insecure and underpaid workers. (And by insecure, I don’t mean the same insecurity that drives our billionaires to compensate for a sadness deep down inside with extravagant wealth. I mean a lack of stability in finances and housing.) Bezos and others like him seem to think there is an endless supply of people available to be churned through their system and spat out when convenient. And, until recently, they were not wrong.

These Are Your Rights At Work When It Is Dangerously Hot

Huffington Post Several cities in the Northwest experienced record-breaking temperatures this week, causing dangerous working conditions for people trying to do their jobs during the sweltering heat wave. Lifeguards in Portland, Oregon, got sick from the heat, airline crews in Seattle needed rest breaks in “cool down” vans and Amazon workers in a Washington warehouse said temperatures reached 90 degrees indoors. Restaurant employees in at least three states walked off the job over hot conditions. The blazing sun and stifling heat don’t just irritate and exhaust people trying to do their jobs –- it can also be fatal. Excessive heat has been the leading weather-related killer in America for 30 years. Heat stress killed 815 U.S. workers and seriously injured more than 70,000 from 1992 through 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Just this past Saturday, a farmworker in Oregon died while moving irrigation equipment on a day when temperatures reached 104 degrees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency tasked with protecting workers’ health, gives workers the right to refuse dangerous work if there’s a clear risk of death or serious physical harm. But if their employer fires them for it, workers have to win a retaliation case under the agency’s laws to be reinstated or win back wages. When it comes to heat, experts say those laws are behind the curve. Since 1972, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has issued multiple reports recommending standards for occupational heat exposure. These recommendations include basic requirements such as employers having to produce a plan for gradually acclimating workers to the heat and giving workers access to water and rest breaks in a shaded or air-conditioned area. OSHA, however, has not followed these recommendations and adopted a specific heat standard. Instead, when deciding whether to issue citations for safety violations, the agency relies on a general duty clause that states employers must provide workplaces “free from recognized hazards.”

Jersey Japanese Food Warehouse Workers Win New Pact

Local 108 members in Secaucus, New Jersey, ratified a new three-year contract with their employer, Mutual Trading Warehouse. The facility provides Japanese food and restaurant supplies for Japanese restaurants.  The new contract provides annual hourly wage increases as well as a $500 “appreciation bonus” for members, and also contains a provision which will place wage increases on top of any state or federal minimum wage increases. The contract also provides for the establishment of a member health and safety committee, a $1 per hour pay increase for certification on fork lifts and other equipment, and covers 100 percent of cost increases in medical coverage.

U.S. Labor Board prosecutor hopes to bulk up staffing, budget as gig worker scrutiny grows

Reuters The Biden administration also recently pushed to boost the budget of a Labor Department unit that investigates whether gig workers are misclassified. Biden’s nominee to run that division has supported government crackdowns on the workforce models of gig-economy companies like Uber. Biden’s American Jobs Plan legislation also helps to “fund the NLRB’s participation in a multi-year, multi-agency effort to combat misclassification of employees as independent contractors,” according to a budget document filed by the NLRB to Congress. Ohr did not offer more details on what that effort would entail. Ohr did not comment on a high-profile case involving Amazon.com Inc, which is before the NLRB. The Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union is trying to persuade the labor board to throw out the results of a union election it lost in Alabama in early April by proving Amazon violated U.S. labor law. There are ongoing legal challenges to Biden firing Robb and picking Ohr to lead the agency. The Department of Justice has recently filed a motion to intervene and argue on the legitimacy of Ohr’s appointment.