CT Cannabis Companies Gear Up For Unions
As the cannabis industry continues to grow and evolve, the topic of unions is becoming increasingly relevant. Connecticut, in particular, is seeing a surge of interest from unions looking to represent cannabis workers. While only one cannabis worker’s union has currently formed in the state, it is clear that more are likely to follow suit.
The first cannabis workers union in Connecticut was formed in May by workers at an Advanced Grow Labs cultivation site in West Hartford. These workers voted to unionize with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, signaling a new era of labor representation in the cannabis industry.
Attorney Andy Glassman, who works with cannabis clients, stated that he has been contacted by three different unions on behalf of his clients. This demonstrates the strong interest unions have in organizing cannabis workers in the state.
Connecticut’s cannabis law has been recently updated to require unions interested in organizing cannabis workers to apply for “bonafide” status with the state Department of Consumer Protection. This legal requirement ensures that unions meet certain criteria before they can represent cannabis workers.
However, there appears to be a contradiction within the law. While cannabis businesses are required to sign a labor peace agreement with a union as part of the licensure process, they are also required by federal law to remain neutral on the issue of unionization. This contradiction raises questions about how businesses can navigate these obligations.
State Senator Julie Kushner addressed the issue, stating that under the law, it is only required that one union negotiate the labor peace agreement, but all unions should have access. She emphasized that the decision to unionize ultimately rests with the workers, as federal law prohibits employers from picking a specific union.
To educate cannabis businesses and owners about these complex labor issues, a seminar was organized by the local Teamsters union and the Connecticut Cannabis Chamber of Commerce. The seminar aimed to provide clarity on the legal requirements and implications of unions in the cannabis industry.
For many new licensees in Connecticut, the labor peace agreement is a crucial part of the final license application process. Daniel Glissman, co-founder of the Connecticut Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, highlighted that many businesses have already found suitable real estate and completed the local zoning process. Now they are preparing to file their final license applications, which requires an attestation of a completed labor peace agreement.
Luis Vega, CEO of Nautilus Botanicals, expressed his support for unions and creating a union-friendly workplace. He welcomed the presence of multiple unions in the cannabis industry. However, he emphasized that as an owner, he should not be involved in the conversations with unions and should remain neutral.
Senator Kushner, acknowledging her background as a former union organizer, recognized that the cannabis industry faces more labor-related regulations than other industries. As a new and heavily regulated industry in Connecticut, it requires careful consideration and attention to labor practices.
Vega also noted that the cannabis industry is subject to intense scrutiny compared to other industries. He highlighted how labor practices, work practices, and financial aspects of the cannabis industry are heavily scrutinized, unlike the alcohol industry. This observation points to the unique challenges that cannabis companies face in labor relations.
As unions and cannabis companies navigate this new landscape in Connecticut, it is important to ensure that the rights and interests of both workers and business owners are protected. The formation of unions in the cannabis industry has the potential to improve worker conditions, provide collective bargaining power, and contribute to the overall growth and professionalism of the industry. Only time will tell how this relationship between unions and cannabis companies will evolve in Connecticut.