Can't It Be About Cannabis? Connecticut Seeds The Path To Unionization

Published date22 September 2021
Subject MatterEmployment and HR, Cannabis & Hemp, Employee Rights/ Labour Relations
Law FirmLittler Mendelson
AuthorMr Jason Stanevich and Alan L. Merriman

Connecticut recently legalized recreational marijuana use by adults. The new law creates complex employment protections for recreational marijuana users. The same legislation also includes provisions that strongly encourage any cannabis-related employer seeking to operate in Connecticut to permit the unionization of its workforce.1

Connecticut is not alone in enacting legislation that mandates a labor-friendly stance for companies that want to receive licenses to operate cannabis-related businesses in the state. New York, New Jersey and California, among others, have included similar provisions in their cannabis-related laws that promote collective bargaining and the recognition of labor organizations. Notwithstanding this trend, federal law arguably pre-empts such local regulations, which typically ignore the right of employees under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to choose to join in or refrain from collective bargaining. Right-to-work organizations have expressed their views about these conflicts, but given recent changes in leadership at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and President Biden's promise to be "the most pro-union president you've ever seen," employees and employers that want to overturn the mandates will likely need to seek such relief from the courts.

Labor Peace Agreements

Section 102 of Connecticut's legislation requires each cannabis establishment, as a condition of licensing, to enter into a labor peace agreement (LPA) with a bona fide labor organization.2 The statute defines an LPA as an agreement between a cannabis establishment and a union (1) under which the owners and management of the cannabis establishment agree they will not lock out employees and (2) that prohibits the labor organization from engaging in picketing, work stoppages, or boycotts against the cannabis establishment. Inherent in the LPA requirement, of course, is that the employer must recognize a union as the representative of its employees and engage in bargaining with that union in order to reach an LPA-almost certainly as part of a full collective bargaining agreement.

The legislation further requires that any LPA must include an agreement of the parties that the exclusive remedy for any violation of the agreement will be final and binding arbitration by a neutral labor arbitrator. If an arbitrator finds that an establishment failed to comply with an order issued by the arbitrator to correct a failure to abide by the agreement...

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