Worker Illegally Fired from Cannabis Company for Union Involvement Wins Job Back

In a win for workers’ rights and good-paying jobs—a worker union representing around 11,000 workers in New England was able to save the job of a worker who was allegedly wrongfully terminated.
Photo courtesy of UFC Local 328.

On December 29, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 328—representing roughly 11,000 Rhode Island and Massachusetts frontline workers—announced a victory for Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center employees in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, preserving their right to openly discuss unions and other workers’ rights.

Like most other industries, workers in medical cannabis operations and dispensaries want employee protections and fair pay. A Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center employee and worker committee member was terminated last June once he was exposed negotiating the first union contract for employees.

After “months of investigations” conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), UFCW Local 328 filed charges against Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center for violating workers’ rights, culminating in the termination of employee and bargaining committee member Ben Telford. 

Other charges include the elimination of employee discounts during a six-week period, the elimination of the Friday lunch program and transfer of bargaining unit work to a new classification. The list of charges continues—including “interrogation, surveillance and disparagement of employees” for their union activity. 

The employees at Greenleaf held a one-day strike planned in a June 26 press release, to protest the illegal firing of Telford, who was illegally terminated for his union activity. UpriseRI arrived on-scene at the protest in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, in support of Telford. UpriseRI insisted that CEO Seth Bock reinstate Telford.

After an investigation, the NLRB issued complaints on each of these charges against Greenleaf. Just a day before the trial was set to take place, Greenleaf offered to settle on every complaint.

“Securing justice for Ben was significant because it not only holds the company accountable for breaking the law, but it also sends a message to workers everywhere that they have rights on the job to organize,” UFCW Local 328 Director of Organizing Sam Marvin told High Times. “At UFCW, we are proud to stand with workers to build a better and more secured future and are committed to holding employers accountable when there are injustices at work.”

Rhode Island Greenleaf Cannabis Workers shared the same sentiment. “We are pleased with the results of the investigations from the National Labor Relations Board and the signed commitments we secured in this settlement agreement,” Rhode Island Greenleaf Cannabis Workers said in a joint statement. “We would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to the NLRB for their hard work during the investigation of numerous labor complaints that were filed against our employer. While we should not have had to experience these unfair labor practices to begin with, it was extremely reassuring to know that we as workers had a formal means of recourse when our employer committed these infractions. While forming a union can be a challenging and arduous process, we know that it is one of the few options we have as workers to create a more stable and predictable future.” 

Rhode Island Greenleaf Cannabis Workers encourage employees in other states to take note.

“We encourage workers to continue to organize with each other both within individual companies and across the industry,” the joint statement continues. “We want to thank UFCW Local 328 for all of its continued support and the resources we’ve been given through this process. We look forward to continuing to build a healthier and secured future for all of us at Greenleaf by completing our first union contract in the near future.”

UFCW Local 328 announced that the new settlement with Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center and its unionized cannabis workers includes the following key items:

  • Back pay for employees during a six-week period the company did not extend their employee discount to eligible union voters 
  • Back pay for employees affected by the company’s elimination of the Friday lunch program for the past 25 weeks 
  • The immediate reinstatement of the Friday lunch program 
  • The offer of reinstatement to employee Ben Telford, who was illegally fired by the company in June 2021, with compensation of full back pay for wages, interest and additional compensation 
  • The immediate restoration and protection of union bargaining unit work for key stakeholders 
  • A signed commitment by the company to not interfere with employees’ rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, to not disparage, surveil, discipline or discharge workers for their union activity, to not create new positions to avoid collective-bargaining obligations, to not transfer work to managers or other employees because of their union activity, and a commitment to bargain in good faith with UFCW Local 328

Per the NLRB settlement agreement, Greenleaf has offered Telford reinstatement to his position and will compensate him with full back pay for all lost wages, interest and additional compensation. 

“We are proud of the workers at Greenleaf for standing together to achieve this victory,” Marvin stated. “It is critical that employers are held accountable when they break the law and violate workers’ rights. This settlement represents a significant achievement for Greenleaf workers in their pursuit for justice and fairness at their workplace, and we look forward to continuing to work together to build the futures they all have earned.”

  1. A union is the ONLY backing workers have. If you think ANY company out of the goodness of their heart is going to take care of the workers, that is the delusion of century. Go Union.

  2. There are many issues that come up when discussing an organized union for the cannabis industry. In this instance the situation taking place at a medical facility. Is the shop and or employees being taxed at the same rate as their recreational counter parts? Their will be higher rates associated with an organized union many consumers may not choose to support. For budtenders it may be easier to rely on income more so than lets say a trimmer at a smaller liscensed farm. If the cannabis industry’s model for a union is modeled similar to the Grocers union or even a Construction Trades union, will there also be offered apprenticeship programs with an entry way and knowledge of the Cannabis Industry? Regardless of this uncharted territory Cannabis workers last thought should be the safety of their health. Some workers are sitting on Five gallon buckets, hunched over a plant, under high intensity UVa UVb lights with a dehumidifier full blast. With this being such a new industry who know what health implications could be a result in 20 years.

    And High Times staff just even from my perspective the consumers deserve to know what’s in some of these nutrient lineups these giant commercial farms are pumping out. Not just for people’s health but also the environment.

  3. that is what it is about the health of workers. And the whip crackers control. Money is secondary but management want to use high wages to cry poor me. If a company cannot take good care of their employees then move over and let some one that can!

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