With the Help of Pyle Rome Attorneys, UFCW Local 1445 Overcomes Last Obstacle to Gain Representation of Agricultural Workers at a Massachusetts Cannabis Cultivation Facility
After a pitched battle against cannabis producer New England Treatment Access (NETA), UFCW Local 1445 has achieved and defended its certification as the representative of all agricultural employees at NETA's Franklin, Mass., cultivation facility. Attorneys Al Gordon O'Connell and Alex Robertson represented the Union in its unbroken string of victories to certify the Union as the representative of these workers.
The matter began more than seven months ago, in June 2020, when Local 1445 filed a petition with the state Department of Labor Relations (DLR) seeking certification by card check, which is permitted under Massachusetts law for agricultural workers. In an attempt to avoid the card-check procedures, NETA asserted that none of the employees at its cultivation facility were agricultural workers and that they were therefore all subject to federal labor laws. The DLR thus held the petition in abeyance, requiring the Union to bring the matter to the National Labor Relations Board for a ruling as to the workers' agricultural status.
In October 2020, after a full hearing, a Regional Director of the NLRB held that the employees involved in cultivation, harvesting, curing and pest management were agricultural employees who are not subject to federal law, thus clearing the way for certification under the state agricultural labor law. NETA then tried to use the delay between the original filing (in June) and the return of the case to the DLR (in November) to undercut the Union's majority status by stuffing the unit with people hired in the intervening time. However, the Union had more than enough cards to retain its majority status despite the changes NETA was seeking to the eligibility list, so the Union agreed to the company's proposed unit list, and the DLR certified the unit on November 20.
In a final attempt to avoid the will of the majority of its employees, NETA then sought to undercut the certification by modifying the eligibility list after the card check. Not knowing that the Union had submitted even more cards in support of its petition, NETA requested that the state labor board reinvestigate the certification to try to knock the Union's card count below majority status. In a ruling on February 1, 2021, the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board denied NETA's last-ditch effort and left the Union's certification in place.
The Union will now begin negotiating its first contract with NETA, giving the employees a strong voice in setting and improving their conditions of employment.