Union backs le­gal­iz­ing pot

SEIU throws its sup­port be­hind Propo­si­tion 19.

Los Angeles Times - - Latextra - John Ho­ef­fel john.ho­ef­fel@latimes.com

The state coun­cil of the Ser­vice Em­ploy­ees In­ter­na­tional Union, the largest la­bor union in Cal­i­for­nia, has en­dorsed Propo­si­tion 19, the ini­tia­tive on the Novem­ber bal­lot that seeks to le­gal­ize mar­i­juana.

The en­dorse­ment, an­nounced Tues­day, could boost the cam­paign, which has not been able to raise enough money for tele­vi­sion ad­ver­tise­ments and is re­ly­ing on grass-roots out­reach.

The SEIU, which says it has more than 700,000 mem­bers in Cal­i­for­nia, is a sig­nif­i­cant po­lit­i­cal force in state pol­i­tics, al­though it is not clear how much money or mus­cle it will put to­ward pas­sage of the mea­sure.

In a let­ter to the cam­paign, union Pres­i­dent Bill A. Lloyd wrote: “As you know, our pri­mary ob­jec­tive in the 2010 elec­tion is tar­get­ing the top of the ticket. The lion’s share of our fo­cus and re­sources are tar­geted at elect­ing Jerry Brown as our next gover­nor, but we look for­ward to join­ing you in any way we can to help pass Propo­si­tion 19.”

Lloyd said the union de­cided to back the ini­tia­tive be­cause it could help raise rev­enue to avoid cuts to health­care, home care, ed­u­ca­tion and ser­vices for chil­dren, fam­i­lies, the el­derly and peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.

“These new rev­enues will help the state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments pro­tect and in­vest in jobs we need to pro­vide for our fam­i­lies,” he wrote.

The ini­tia­tive, which al­lows peo­ple 21 and older to grow and pos­sess mar­i­juana, au­tho­rizes no taxes but al­lows cities and coun­ties to ap­prove the sale of mar­i­juana and tax it.

Roger Salazar, a spokesman for the op­po­si­tion cam­paign, noted that the ini­tia­tive does not guar­an­tee any new rev­enues.

“It strikes me that they have been sold a bill of goods,” he said.

Salazar added, how­ever, that he did not think the union would of­fer much help.

“I think they’ve made it clear that they have higher pri­or­i­ties,” he said. “From the No on Prop. 19 side, my hope is that this is not much more than moral sup­port.”

But Dan Rush, an of­fi­cial from United Food and Com­mer­cial Work­ers Lo­cal 5 who is work­ing closely with the cam­paign, ex­pects more than that.

The SEIU has 15 lo­cals in Cal­i­for­nia that rep­re­sent work­ers in health­care, longterm care, build­ing ser­vices, and state and lo­cal govern­ment.

Rush said he hopes the SEIU and other unions will con­trib­ute money and work­ers to op­er­ate phone banks and walk precincts.

He said the en­dorse­ment also could trig­ger an in­crease in con­tri­bu­tions.

“I think that this is go­ing to en­cour­age ma­jor donors and show ev­ery­one that Propo­si­tion 19’s cam­paign is a vi­able cam­paign,” Rush said. “We are build­ing an el­e­ment of cred­i­bil­ity and mo­men­tum for the cam­paign that is his­toric.”

The pro-le­gal­iza­tion cam­paign has made la­bor a key com­po­nent of its elec­tion strat­egy.

Be­sides Rush’s lo­cal, the ini­tia­tive also has won sup­port from the coun­cil that over­sees po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties for the UFCW in Cal­i­for­nia, the North­ern Cal­i­for­nia coun­cil of the In­ter­na­tional Long­shore and Ware­house Union, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Work­ers of Amer­ica Lo­cal 9415 and Sign Dis­plays and Al­lied Crafts Lo­cal 510.

“I’m con­fi­dent that other ma­jor la­bor unions are go­ing to be weigh­ing in,” Rush said.

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