Yesterday the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation called on National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel Peter Robb to take legal action to protect workers subjected to forced unionism schemes interfering with workers’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) through state licensing requirements imposed by several states on the cannabis industry. The Foundation’s request can be found here [link to https://www.nrtw.org/wp-
'Right-To-Work' Advocates Ask NLRB To Stop Pot Union Deals
Law360 (March 19, 2020, 9:12 PM EDT) -- A well-known union foe asked the National Labor Relations Board on Thursday to stop states from using cannabis licensing laws to force or encourage companies to sign collective bargaining agreements, saying they violate workers’ rights to not join a union.
The National Right to Work Foundation said in a letter to NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb that a clutch of states including New York, New Jersey and California were engaged in a “disturbing trend” of requiring cannabis employers to sign so-called labor peace agreements with unions or risk losing their licenses.
The group also took issue with policies in states like Pennsylvania and Illinois that award cannabis license applications higher scores if they have signed the agreements. NRWF Vice President Raymond J. LaJeunesse Jr. said this amounted to favoritism for companies that had already picked a union for their employees to work under.
“Once this practice of dragooning workers into forced union representation and forced dues becomes established, it will be that much more difficult to overturn,” LaJeunesse wrote in the letter, arguing that the agreements “ran roughshod” over workers’ rights to “to form, join or assist a labor organization, or refrain from doing so” under the National Labor Relations Act.
LaJeunesse said New Jersey was the “most egregious violator” of the NLRA, citing the state’s policy requiring cannabis employers to enter a collective bargaining agreement with their workers within 200 days or risk losing their license.
LaJeunesse claimed this law and others like it run afoul of the NLRA, which Congress intended as the sole arbiter of employee-employer relations and collective bargaining agreements. He also argued that statutory preferences for labor peace agreements undermine the rights of workers to choose whether to be represented by a union.
“By favoring license applicants that have a collective bargaining agreement, or use union labor in construction of their facilities, the state of New Jersey rewards employees who have selected union representation, and penalizes those who have not,” LaJeunesse said.
LaJeunesse said these policies have come at the behest of large national unions, in particular the United Food and Commercial Workers, which last year to five states in New England and New York urging them to adopt labor peace agreements. By its own count, the union boasts roughly 10,000 members who work in cannabis.
The United Food and Commercial Workers did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.
Labor peace agreements take different forms, though they generally entail a trade-off between workers and employers. Workers agree to not use methods like picketing to force bargaining, while employers agree not interfere with a union’s communication and coordination with workers.
The agreements and unionization in general have in the cannabis industry, though advocates say they are critical to ensuring workers receive fair treatment and decent wages in a precarious new industry that lacks typical labor protections.