Labor Judge Rules Dispensary Must Bargain with Union Despite Election Loss

A federal administrative law judge handed a significant victory to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union in a ruling last week when it ordered a Massachusetts dispensary to negotiate with the union despite the fact that the UFCW lost an election last year to represent the company’s staff.

The judge, who oversees cases filed with the National Labor Relations Board, found that the cannabis retailer I.N.S.A. Inc. had illegally fired pro-union workers and thus poisoned any possibility for a fair election, Reuters reported.

The ruling, by Boston-based Administrative Law Judge Andrew Gollin, is the first to apply a brand-new pro-union standard from the NLRB that stems from an August case, Reuters reported. The new legal precedent means unions can argue they represent workers despite having lost workplace elections when there’s evidence of unfair labor practices by the employer.

Gollin found that the I.N.S.A. Inc. case fit the bill, and that the company was guilty of anti-union activity.

As such, Gollin ordered the cannabis shop to negotiate with the UFCW Local 1445 on employment contracts for its workers, and also ordered the company to rehire and pay back pay to two employees that had been fired over union activities.

However, the underlying legal case that created the new NLRB standard is being appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. From there, it could go to the U.S. Supreme Court, and thus could be reversed down the line, Reuters reported.

Unions such as the UFCW and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters have been making inroads with cannabis workers for years and have also increasingly turned to federal unfair labor practice complaints as a form of leverage during negotiations with marijuana businesses. Strikes have also become more common.

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