Local Union and Leader Honored for Strengthening Rights of Pot Dispensary Workers

Rigo Valdez is one of the good guys in the burgeoning California cannabis business yet he’s never sold a joint.

Part of Valdez’s job as vice president of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 770 is to make sure marijuana dispensary and collective workers get what they deserve, like a living wage, in cash and not in cannabis.

On Thursday, June 14, Valdez and his union received the Ethical Emerging Industry Award, honoring them as trailblazers in their commitment to workers, from the watchdog group Labor 411 at the inaugural Blue Tie Gala, held at the W Hotel in Hollywood.

Valdez was instrumental in helping to strengthen the rights of dispensary workers and in working for marijuana legalization, Labor 411 leaders and others said. “One of my favorite unions is Local 770,” City Councilman Paul Koretz said at the ceremony. “770 was in the forefront of taking cannabis out of the shadows. I’m sure there would not be legal cannabis in Los Angeles without 770.”

Labor 411 also gave an Ethical Business Award to Kaiser Permanente, where every employee is a union member.

The Blue Tie Gala was a celebration of Labor 411’s campaign of Buying Blue. Labor 411 prints directories that list businesses that offer employees good pay and benefits. The directories empower consumers to shop at stores where owners understand the importance of treating employees fairly, publisher Cherri Senders said.

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Rigo Valdez receives award from Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz

Joanne Kim

Local 770 latched on to the idea of helping dispensary workers in 2012 after Los Angeles City Council members Jose Huizar and Mitchell Englander lobbied to end all pot sales because of the proliferation of illegal shops in the city, Koretz said. That meant hundreds of dispensary workers would lose

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