Morning Report: Cannabis Is Fertile Ground for Unions

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Morning Report: Cannabis Is Fertile Ground for Unions

Employees at March & Ash in City Heights voted for a collective bargaining agreement with UFCW Local 135. / Photo by Megan Wood

Local cannabis workers have inked the region’s first locally formed labor contract.

Three of March & Ash stores voted to unionize, which still leaves out the location in Mission Valley. But the yearslong management-led effort came to fruition thanks to a collaborative process with the union, explains Voice of San Diego contributor Jackie Bryant in a new story.

Under a state law signed in 2019, every licensed cannabis retailer is required to enter into such an agreement with a qualified union. March & Ash officially joined UFCW Local 135, which represents workers in grocery, health care, retail and cannabis industries, among others. 

This is a “big get” for UFCW Local 135 because the cannabis industry is an emerging one with a large workforce that’s still transitioning from the unlicensed marketplace, Bryant writes. 

Grant Tom, secretary-treasurer of UFCW Local 135, said the March & Ash contract could be used as a “blueprint” for the rest of the industry. The contract tried to address the unique needs of the industry, which has many young workers and employees who were used to working in an underground economy.

SDG&E Wants to Stop Collecting Part of Franchise Fee

The city’s main power provider might stop paying partial rent to be on public property once its contract is up June 2.

Time is running out on Mayor Todd Gloria’s five-month extension of a franchise fee contract with San Diego Gas and Electric. The agreement allows the investor-owned utility to be the sole power provider and builder of the energy grid in exchange for a fee to put its equipment (electric poles, etc.) in the public right of way.

SDG&E doesn’t actually pay those fees (which amounts to millions of dollars per year) – ratepayers do – but SDG&E acts as a conduit by charging ratepayers for the fee on their bill and emptying the cash into the city’s coffers.

But on May 4, SDG&E sent a request to its regulator, the California Public Utilities Commission, asking for approval to basically stop charging part of the fee. And in effect, the city would collect less money. 

San Diegans pay the highest fees of any SDG&E customer city. That’s because when the city wanted to raise the fee higher than its neighbors in 1972, SDG&E asked permission from the Public Utilities Commission to pass that cost onto ratepayers as a surcharge.

The utility argues in the letter it won’t have the “legal authority” to charge that surcharge once Gloria’s extension is up.

Public Power San Diego, a group advocating against the city renewing any contract with SDG&E and instead forming its own government-run energy grid, called the effort a “threat” in a press release Thursday.

It’s unclear whether the CPUC has made a decision to grant SDG&E’s request.

SDG&E spokeswoman Helen Gao said the utility filed the letter because it’s obligated to let the regulator know if “there’s a possibility their rates may change.”  

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by MacKenzie Elmer and Andrew Keatts, and edited by Sara Libby.

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