Local 338 Cannabis

Understanding Labor Peace Agreements & Unions in New York’s Medical & Adult- Use Cannabis Program

 

About Local 338

Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW is a labor organization that was formed in 1925 and today proudly represents 13,000 working people across New York State and northern New Jersey. Local 338 members come from diverse backgrounds and work in a variety of different industries and roles including, grocery and food retail, drug stores and pharmaceutical retail, health care and human services, and transportation. Amongst this growing membership Local 338 represents 80% of the workers in New York's cannabis industry who are employed across the supply chain from seed to sale.

A Leading Voice on New York State Cannabis Policy

As an organization, Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW has been an early supporter of passing comprehensive cannabis policy in New York State and is recognized as a major stakeholder in the conversation. As advocates for workers, we recognized that most New Yorkers will be entering the cannabis industry – whether in medical or adult-use – as workers and that’s why we believe in creating good cannabis jobs and careers. Our goal is and has been to ensure opportunities for high road employment and believe that pathways to the middle class should be open and accessible to all, particularly to communities most impacted by the prohibition of cannabis.

Since New York’s medical cannabis program officially launched in 2015, Local 338 has been successfully engaged in organizing efforts to ensure that the jobs in this new industry set a standard for what cannabis careers can and should be, by providing family sustaining wages and benefits. We have negotiated union contracts that provide our members in the cannabis industry with guaranteed wage increases, full-time guarantees, paid time off, premium healthcare benefits for workers and their families, access to retirement savings and on-the-job training, amongst other invaluable workplace protections.

 Labor Peace Agreements with Local 338

Labor peace agreements (LPAs) are a requirement for application for all the cannabis licenses regardless of the size of the business or how many workers will eventually be employed as outlined in the statute of the Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA). Local 338 is the Union representing cannabis workers in New York State and, as we did with applicants for medical cannabis licenses, we are now in the process of signing LPAs with all who wish to apply for a license in the adult-use and expanded medical cannabis industries.  

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a labor peace agreement?

A labor peace agreement (LPA) is a written and mutually agreed-upon document between a labor union and an employer seeking an adult use cannabis license.[1] An LPA must include terms prohibiting labor organizations and members from engaging in picketing, work stoppages, boycotts, and any other economic interference with the entity. LPAs also include language ensuring an employer remains neutral toward a unionization campaign in the workplace. LPAs also include provisions governing access to the workforce by the union to ensure free and open communication without disrupting workers on the shop floor, as well as card check agreements, which ensure the workers choice is respected.

Where does it say in the MRTA that applicants must have a labor peace agreement?

Section 64 of the Marihuana and Taxation Act (MRTA) defines the selection criteria for becoming a licensed cannabis business in NY. While regulations still need to be developed in order to guide the detailed application and selection process, subsection 64(1)(i) clearly states that a license applicant must enter into a labor peace agreement (LPA) with a bona-fide labor organization.[2] 

What types of cannabis businesses need to have a signed Labor Peace Agreement?

Any business applying for a license under the MRTA, regardless of size or number of workers, must demonstrate they have a signed LPA in order to receive a license. Maintaining an LPA is also an ongoing condition of licensure after the initial license has been awarded.

What is a bona-fide union?

A bona-fide union is a legitimate union, which is often defined as a union that actively represents workers in the industry as to wages, hours and working conditions. It also means a union whose officers have been elected by the union membership through a secret ballot election or otherwise in a manner consistent with federal law. Lastly, it means a union that is free from domination or interference by an employer. Two fundamental questions to ask a union seeking an LPA with your company is, are you a member of the National AFL-CIO and do you actively represent workers in the current cannabis industry? 

Does a Labor Peace Agreement (LPA) require me to have a unionized workforce?

No. Labor peace agreements do not equate to mandatory unionization and do not impose a union contract. Negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement between the union and the business only begin after a majority of workers elect to join the union.

Does a Labor Peace Agreement require me to hire union workers?

No. Labor peace agreements do not impose hiring standards or requirements. Companies have sole discretion as to who they chose to employ. In the construction industry there is a tradition of using “hiring halls” for employing workers, however there is no equivalent structure for the permanent workforce in the cannabis industry.

What are the benefits of a Labor Peace Agreement?

LPAs strengthen business stability and support a healthy workplace. When workers and employers agree to a harmonious relationship it helps to reduce workplace antagonism. If workers ultimately elect to join a union and successfully negotiate a Collective Bargaining Agreement, it typically results in lower worker turnover, which saves money for the business. Local 338’s LPAs with licensees in New York’s medical cannabis program have resulted in the following benefits for the employers:

  • Reduced turnover
  • Happier and healthier workforce
  • Workers see their job as a career and feel invested in the business’s success
  • Access to quality and affordable medical plans
  • Improved employee relations
  • The opportunity for industry and labor to come together to build a sustainable cannabis industry in New York State and ensure it’s the best program in the country

How can a Labor Peace Agreement benefit small businesses and/or equity applicants?

Labor peace is a good idea whether your business is small or large. A harmonious relationship between workers and management ensures that workers feel invested and committed to a business’ long-term success. In addition, through contract negotiations, employers and employers’ associations, may be able to provide free or affordable healthcare, retirement plans, worker training programs and certifications, and more. These benefits are often too costly for small businesses, but access to union plans can make these benefits feasible. Such benefits contribute to a worker’s sense that they have a career in cannabis, rather than just another job, which increases job satisfaction and reduces turnover.

Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW has a strong history of representing workers employed by New York-based small businesses in a variety of different industries. We currently have union contracts with two dozen entities that employ less than 15 or 20 workers and include owners who are women and people of color. A majority of these businesses have been under a union contract for over 20 years. Local 338 also represents workers at businesses that began small but expanded to open a number of worksites with a much larger workforce, all with a union contract in place. Local 338 recognizes the valuable role small businesses play in our communities. As a result, while discussions around collective bargaining agreements prioritize improving wages, benefits and working conditions for workers, we also take into account that these businesses must remain sustainable long term.

What do I have to show the Office of Cannabis Management to prove I have a signed labor peace agreement?

While this will likely be included in rulemaking, during the application process for a registered organization license, applicants were required to include a copy of their sign and executed LPA in their application. We do expect this to be the same. 

For more information about labor peace agreements or to inquire about securing one for your application, please click here.

[1] § 3. Definitions. 29. "Labor peace agreement" means an agreement between an entity and a labor organization that, at a minimum, protects the state's proprietary interests by prohibiting labor organizations and members from engaging in picketing, work stoppages, boycotts, and any other economic interference with the entity.
[2] MRTA: § 64. Selection criteria. 1. The board shall develop regulations for use by the office in determining whether or not an applicant should be granted the privilege of an initial adult-use cannabis license, based on, but not limited to, the following criteria: (i) the applicant has entered into a labor peace agreement with a bona-fide labor organization that is actively engaged in representing or attempting to represent the applicant's employees, and the maintenance of such a labor peace agreement shall be an ongoing material condition of licensure.