CBS 2, ABC 7, Weedmaps TV, KNX Radio and other major news outlets gathered outside of South Coast Safe Access (SCSA) yesterday, as dispensary owners, employees and other city officials addressed the public about becoming the first unionized medical marijuana dispensary in Orange County. Going into effect March 7th, SCSA employees will have health, vision and dental coverage, as well as paid vacation, sick time, pension retirement plans among other provided benefits as a result of their collaboration with United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 324 (UFCW).
"We want to provide the very best for our employees and we want to make sure they're protected," says Rick Eiden, the Executive Vice President for the OC Food and Commercial Workers Local 324 and President of OC Labor Federation as he addressed the public. "I really applaud the owners of SCSA who took the leadership role in making sure that their workers had a voice on the job and have the ability to be represented."
Eiden introduced Derek Worden, one of the owners of SCSA, to the press. With pride, his initial statement began by expressing that SCSA works hard at making sure it's a great employer, thus why it's important that his employees are taken care of properly. But instead of solely focusing on what unionizing does for his employees, his address focused on what it means for the community. "We pride ourself on being a valuable community partner and a safe access provider for thousands of patients," says Worden. "We are pleased that our staff wanted to unite and collectively work and share fair wages and benefits…so that our patients can continue to have reliable access to environmental friendly, affordable medicinal cannabis."
Worden also touched on the fact that unionizing changes the dynamic within the dispensary business, as it allows for the industry to shift away from offering short term jobs to offering careers.
Former Senator Joe Dunn also addressed the press, congratulating SCSA and UFCW Local 324 for being a prime example of how a community should work. "This is exactly how a community should operate," says Dunn. "The entrepreneurs that launched SCSA not only had their focus on the safety and the high quality product they provide to their patients but their partnership with UFCW also ensures that the hardworking men and women that deliver this high quality product to the patients have a fair chance of living the American dream," he says. "That’s exactly how a community should work and honestly that’s exactly how our nation should work, too."
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Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen also spoke to the press and discussed how the leadership shown by the government at the state level is what allows cities, like Santa Ana and Garden Grove, to assess the possibilities for safe access to medical marijuana within city lines. "We should recognize the leadership in the California government for signing into law the three bills which allow cities like [Santa Ana and Garden Grove] to look at how we can ensure there are high standards for access, as well as to ensure our community is safe," he says.
As the press conference came to an end, the question of which dispensaries are next to unionize was brought up to Eiden. "There are a number of other dispensaries in the area that have already signed neutrality agreements who are looking to do the exact same thing," says Eiden. "We are very excited for the opportunity to really grow and expand, and give workers within this industry the chance to make a career out of what they're doing."
As of next week, SCSA employees will be granted the exact same benefits that retail drug workers have fought for decades to have. "[SCSA employees] will have the exact same benefit plan and retirement plan that our pharmacists and technicians have in the retail drug industry," says Eiden. "As they should."