Pro-Worker Organization Urges NLRB to Enforce Cannabis Industry Workers’ Rights against Forced Unionization Schemes

On March 19, 2020 the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation urged the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel Peter Robb to take action to defend workers being subject to forced unionization schemes. The Foundation specifically cited schemes infringing on workers’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) such as state licensing requirements in certain states.

A letter from Foundation Vice President and Legal Director Raymond LaJeunesse, Jr. attempts to inform the General Counsel about a “disturbing trend in state licensing regulation that, if left unchecked, will cause permanent damage to employees’ fundamental Section 7 rights under the National Labor Relations Act.”

The letter indicates how a number of states have already implemented schemes that transgress on the rights of workers in the medicinal cannabis sector. For example, the law in New Jersey law requires “a private sector employer to enter into a union bargaining agreement within 200 days of commencing operations” or give up their license to conduct business. This requirement does give employees the freedom to choose whether or not they would opt for union representation, which is a clear violation of the rights afforded to them per the NLRA.

Additionally, states like California and New York mandate cannabis employers to enter into so-called “labor peace agreements” (LPAs) as a condition of keeping their license. These agreements infringe on workers’ privacy and also violate their right to either opt out of or join a union. In other states, like Pennsylvania and Illinois, state officials will award more “points” to cannabis license applicants who enter LPAs, thus giving preferential treatment to businesses which have already selected a union for their employees to work under. The states implementing these schemes have acted at the bidding of national labor unions, with the United Food and Commercial Workers spearheading these forced unionism efforts.

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The letter demands the NLRB to take action against these state and local governments whose regulations represent a violation of the rights of employees to join or not join labor unions, and spells out the clear legal arguments that support challenging laws that infringe on the employee rights that the NLRA protects. It calls attention to how such schemes are “directly contrary to the NLRA’s core principle that ‘under Section 9(a), the rule is that the employees pick the union; the union does not pick the employees.’”

In 2019, New Jersey changed its medicinal cannabis laws, mandating license applicants to sign “labor peace agreements.” According to the amended law, applicants must keep and abide by an LPA as a condition of maintaining their license. Furthermore, these private sector employers are compelled to sign monopoly bargaining agreements within the first 200 days of opening. If they do not do so, they forfeit the right to conduct business in the state. In essence, the letter states, “the state pressures employees to sign up for unionization solely to keep their employers afloat.”

Additionally, the Foundation highlights how New Jersey indirectly lays down monopoly representation for workers by prioritizing license applicants that already have agreements with union officials or who vow to use their “best efforts to utilize union labor in the construction or retrofit of the facilities associated with the permitted entity.”

The letter also indicates that the NLRB has the authority to intervene against state activity that threatens workers’ rights afforded by the NLRA.

“The NLRB is tasked with protecting the rights of workers across the nation, including their right not to be coerced into union ranks. Our letter to NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb shows the pressing need for the agency to step in and take action against states and local governments who have passed laws that infringe on the rights of workers by mandating these businesses hand over their workers to union forced dues ranks,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix.

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