Workers strike, demand free pot, campaign says

From, June 18, 2014

A small contingent of canvassers for one of Oregon’s two marijuana legalization ballot measures has gone on strike after saying their paychecks either bounced or were late. Campaign spokesman Leo Townsell, however, says the seven workers demanded free marijuana and other perks the campaign could not provide.

Townsell acknowledged that paychecks were delivered late, but campaign director Jersey Deutsch said employees were awarded about $200 each for the delay.

The seven workers say that as patients with pot prescriptions they should get free marijuana as a benefit of the job. They comprise about 20 percent of the 35 total canvassers gathering signatures for one of the November ballot measures to legalize recreational marijuana.

About 12 people, including canvassers, held a short protest on Tuesday outside the Portland office of the Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp.

The striking canvassers said they have been effectively fired and will seek arbitration from the National Labor Relations Board. The canvassers said they tried to return to work on Monday but were locked out.

“We want accountability and transparency in this office and the campaign,” said Wyatt Reed, whose group of striking canvassers organized under the title United Campaign Workers. As they stood locked out in front of the campaign headquarters, seven newly hired canvassers brought on as their replacements began their days, clipboards in hand.

The list of demands provided by Townsell said the striking canvassers sought longer training sessions, established “turf autonomy” and travel reimbursement. It also said canvassers who are medical marijuana patients should receive “medication gratis from clinics” operated by The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation, which is owned by chief legalization campaign petitioner Paul Stanford. He has worked to legalize marijuana in Oregon for more than 20 years.

The labor dispute came as Stanford struggles to gather enough signatures for his measure to qualify for the November ballot. So far, his campaign has collected only about 43,000 of the 87,000 signatures needed by July 3.

A competing pot legalization campaign has gathered more than 116,000 signatures.

Stanford wants to write marijuana legalization into the Oregon Constitution.

His effort faces competition from the group New Approach Oregon, which is preparing to push a measure that leaves the constitution alone and gives the Oregon Liquor Control Commission the job of regulating marijuana like it does alcohol.