Ben Tilford

Illegally Fired Cannabis Employee Wins Back Job And More

Illegally Fired Cannabis Employee Wins Back Job And More

In a massive victory for workers’ rights, Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center rehired employee Ben Telford after being unfairly fired for negotiating union contracts for employees

The National Labor Relations Act states that “employees have the right to unionize, to join together to advance their interests as employees. It is unlawful for an employer to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of their rights.” 

After Telford’s illegal dismissal, Greenleaf employees held a one-day strike on Saturday, June 26, demonstrating their solidarity.

After a months-long investigation conducted by the National Labor Relations Board, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 328 filed multiple charges against Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center for workers’ rights violations. The charges included:

  • The removal of employee discounts during a six-week period.
  • The elimination of the Friday lunch program.
  • The transfer of bargaining unit work to a new classification.

Most damning of all, the charges included “interrogation, surveillance, and disparagement of employees” for their union activity, which is illegal under federal law. Greenleaf caved and offered to settle on every complaint the day before the scheduled trial.

The terms of the new settlement brokered by UFCW Local 328 between Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center and its unionized cannabis workers include:

  • The immediate restoration and protection of union bargaining unit work for key stakeholders. 
  • A signed commitment by the company to not interfere with employees’ rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, to not disparage, surveil, discipline, or discharge workers for their union activity, to not create new positions to avoid collective-bargaining obligations, to not transfer work to managers or other employees because of their union activity, and a commitment to bargain in good faith with UFCW Local 328.
  • Six weeks back pay for the period in which the company did not extend their employee discount to eligible union voters. 
  • Twenty-five weeks back pay for employees affected by the company’s elimination of the Friday lunch program. 
  • The immediate reinstatement of the Friday lunch program. 

Telford was reinstated with full back pay for wages, interest, and additional compensation. The win was significant because it held Greenleaf accountable for violating the law.

“Securing justice for Ben was significant because it not only holds the company accountable for breaking the law, but it also sends a message to workers everywhere that they have rights on the job to organize,” Sam Marvin, UFCW Local 328 Director of Organizing, said in an interview with High Times.  

Rhode Island Greenleaf employees issued a statement echoing their satisfaction with the outcome and expressing their gratitude for Local 328. The Greenleaf Compassion Center provides cannabis products such as various strains in tamper-evident packaging

“While we should not have had to experience these unfair labor practices, to begin with, it was extremely reassuring to know that we as workers had a formal means of recourse when our employer committed these infractions. While forming a union can be a challenging and arduous process, we know that it is one of the few options we have as workers to create a more stable and predictable future.” 

Marvin is understandably proud of the workers at Greenleaf for standing together. 

“It is critical that employers are held accountable when they break the law and violate workers’ rights,” Marvin said. He sees the settlement as a significant achievement for Greenleaf workers in their pursuit of justice and fairness at work.

The Greenleaf Cannabis employees are not the first cannabis workers to unionize. In Southern California, workers at a cannabis grow site voted to join the Teamsters union. In Chicago, workers at two dispensaries voted to become members in the Teamsters Local Union 777.

In their joint statement, Rhode Island Greenleaf Cannabis Workers said they look forward to “continuing to build a healthier and secure future for all of us at Greenleaf by completing our first union contract in the near future. We encourage workers to continue to organize with each other both within individual companies and across the industry.” 

Reading next

Rhode Island Lawmakers Getting Closer To Marijuana Legalization Deal
The Legalization of Recreational Cannabis In Rhode Island

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