More Troubles With Labor Unions in New Jersey

As the cannabis industry grows in both size and normalcy, so will the many usual aspects of other federally legal jobs. Mainly, one of those aspects becoming increasingly mainstream in this flourishing industry is unionization. Across the Legal States and most recently in Nevada, dispensary and cultivation staff members are seeking to join and seek protection and benefits from labor unions in this industry that is still without a major united organized labor union. One of the most prominent and nationwide organized labor unions in this continued battle for unionization in the American cannabis industry is The United Food and Commercial Workers. With a union of over a million members and stretching into Canada, the UFCW’s reach is quite expansive, and they’re becoming just as prevalent in certain states. Describing themselves as “America’s largest cannabis union”, the UFCW is making their presence known in historic ways.

“We represent tens of thousands of cannabis workers across the US in dispensaries, labs, delivery, kitchens, manufacturing, processing, grow facilities and more, helping workers secure better wages, protection from unfair discipline, and great benefits with a union contract.” their website reads.

About a month ago, staff members at the Vegas-located The Dispensary voted to join the UFCW Local 711 chapter and staff members from MedMen’s Vegas location voted to join that chapter earlier in September. In the aftermath of the 2022 elections, the UFCW is also looking at starting campaign efforts in the recently opened Missouri cannabis industry. However, as the UFCW advances in unionizing the greater cannabis industry as it continues to grow at the rapid rate that it is, they’ve noticed a strange issue arising at various locations across the legal states. One that is unique, but of grave concern nonetheless.

Despite having legal cannabis since January 1st of 2021, unionization efforts in the New Jersey cannabis industry have only been recently occurring. At a dispensary in Montclair, the UFCW efforts are being met with a supposedly competing cannabis union. The Cannabis Engineers Extractors and Distributors (CEED), who Cultiva Law’s blog has previously written about back in September, was the mysterious organization that the UFCW Local 152 were alerted to by the Montclair dispensary’s very own employees.

CEED is considered by some to be a “company union”, a sham “organized labor” union that is in all actuality a fraudulent group only in existence to thwart or otherwise stifle unionization efforts. CEED’s efforts are considered by many to be shady at best and outright destructive at worst, and UFCW chapters are fully aware of the sketchy union’s activities. In total, the fake union’s efforts of false organizing workers have been discovered across the vast legal states on all coasts. Arizona, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and New Jersey have all experienced CEED representatives having a presence in their state. Partially due to California’s laws surrounding cannabis companies requiring a labor peace agreement with a “bona fide” labor organization, groups like CEED 420 and other shady supposed labor organizations have been able to gain a much more significant foothold. An illegitimate chapter of the National Production Workers Union’s called “ProTech Local 33”, was found to have infiltrated California.

In mandated filings with The Department of Labor, CEED reported having no members whatsoever. In fact, their supposed parent umbrella organization, The Union of Journeymen and Allied Trades, has been verifiably accused of being a sham labor organization or a “company union” as well.

“Fake, management-aligned, labor unions are becoming more and more prevalent throughout the cannabis industry and they serve one purpose, to line the pockets of owners at the expense of the workers.” Ademola Oyefeso, an international vice president at the UFCW said. It’s not certain how widespread CEED’s reach and influence has been within the New Jersey cannabis market, and there’s no current action from the Cannabis Regulatory Commission on pursuing any sort of legal recourse with these sham organizations. However on their website, CEED 420 nonetheless has a quote from one of the most powerful people in New Jersey politics, the president of the New Jersey Senate Nicholas Scutari.

“I would like to congratulate the employees of Ascend Montclair Dispensary who have chosen to take the step forward as a union represented and protected shop.” Scutari congratulated. “While I have been a champion for the need to legalize cannabis in New Jersey, I have never lost sight that the jobs created by this new industry should be safeguarded with enhanced workplace protections. This is why my legislation added strong labor protections into the cannabis laws we passed. I wish Cannabis Engineer Extractors & Distributors Union (CEED) Local 420 continued success in their organizing efforts, and I will stand with them as I have always stood with the women and men of the Garden State’s Organized labor movement.

Furthermore, CEED’s website claims that the cannabis industry is expected to be a $145.4 billion industry by 2025 without any source cited. For reference, most estimates state that the industry will be approximately worth $45 billion by 2025, and some of those estimates say that the industry won’t be worth $45 billion until 2027. From a copywriting standpoint, let’s hope this was just an unnoticed typo.

As the American cannabis industry expands at the exponential rate that it is now, cannabis companies and labor organizers will need to have stronger diligence in ensuring that unions and labor organizations are indeed legitimate.

Aaron Pelley

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