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Cannabis Labor Union Organizations Are Surging During the Pandemic

With the uptick in states that have legalized marijuana for recreational or medical use, the workplace landscape surrounding the fairly new industry has slowly changed with the times. Cannabis labor union efforts have started to take off. Some states are even enforcing regulations that support unionization within the industry.

Labor Peace Agreements (LPA)

Some states such as California, Illinois, and most recently New York, now require employers within the cannabis industry to enter into Labor Peace Agreements (LPA) with unions. An LPA prohibits employers from interfering with labor organizing. This does not mean that a union is automatically established. However, it does make it easier for employees to make it happen. Additionally, the LPA prohibits unions and its’ members from involving themselves in anything that may cause economic interference (such as boycotts and work stoppages, etc.) to the employer.

Essentially, an LPA is an agreement between the employer and a specific union. This means that an employer can establish an LPA with one union that employees reject. If the employees choose to be represented by any other union, the employer can then challenge those efforts as it does not have an LPA established with them.

In some cases, certain states require LPAs as a condition of licensure. California currently requires it for cannabis employers with twenty or more employees. Similarly, New York requires them for all cannabis employers when applying for business licenses. Employers should always consult with trusted counsel before establishing an LPA to ensure all expectations are met and understood.

Union Impacts on The Industry

In 2013 the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) launched a formal effort called Cannabis Workers Rising. Since then, their efforts have grown with every state that has passed cannabis legislation. A UFCW official has even appointed to New Jersey’s new Cannabis Regulatory Commission in 2020.

The current pandemic has played a huge role in the recent surge of cannabis labor unions. The effort to unionize the cannabis industry has been growing with the industry itself but intensified when the pandemic hit.

Many have felt the financial uncertainty that came with the lockdowns which brought focus to the need for workplace security and safety that unions bring.

Much like other industries, union presence and activity is more noticeable in areas where labor traditionally has a large presence. Places like California and parts of the Midwest will see faster growth than other states. However, they will most likely be setting precedents for other states going forward.

When it comes to employee rights and protections, employers should connect with a trusted partner or professional to ensure compliance with both local and federal regulations.

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This article provides general information and shouldn’t be construed as legal or HR advice. Since employment laws may change over time and can vary by location and industry, please consult a lawyer or HR expert for advice specific to your business. You can also contact Payroll Systems to inquire about our HR support services.