UFCW 655 wins historic NLRB fight in cannabis organizing drive

Wins more than $145,000 back pay for workers not yet union members; launches major regional cannabis organizing drive

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UNFAIR LABOR PRACTICES: Employees and supporters working to organize at Shangri La cannabis dispensary picket against Unfair Labor Practices outside the Shangri-La South dispensary in Columbia, Mo. on May 16, 2023. – Rudi Keller/Missouri Independent photo

Columbia, MO – “We won’t back down, and we’ll fight for employees who are wronged.”

With that emphasis, UFCW Local 655 President David Cook announced an “historic,” unprecedented settlement of Unfair Labor Practice charges against Shangri-La cannabis dispensary here where the union was organizing its employees and the company engaged in egregious anti-union tactics that included firing 10 workers without cause and as Cook put it, “engaging in manipulation and intimidation.”

Local 655 filed for an election last April. When bosses discovered who signed the petition, firings began. As employees began picketing over the firings, Local 655 filed Unfair Labor Practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) based on a dramatic change in NLRB rules over how unfair company practices during organizing are resolved.

Under the new rules of the Cemex decision settled last August, just as Local 655 and NLRB prepared to take the company to court over its illegal actions, the company came to the NLRB and Local 655 and offered to settle to avoid what would have obviously been a losing cause.

“This settlement – with its more than $145,000 award to wronged employees — is the most sweeping and comprehensive win I’ve seen in my 37 years in the Labor Movement,” Cook said. In addition to the monetary win, the victory included:

  • Offering 10 fired employees their jobs back with back pay and interest.
  • Paying five workers not wanting to return, their back pay with interest plus paying each an additional $5,000.
  • Paying damages to a terminated employee for the interest on a high interest loan he was forced to take out because of the termination.
  • Immediately recognizing and bargaining with Local 655.
  • Allow workers to discuss union organizing on company property, and the company cannot remove union organizers from their facilities.
  • Requires the company to read a statement to employees — with union staff present — acknowledging worker’s rights to organizing and promising not to engage in illegal practices in the future.
  • Requires company managers and supervisors to attend mandatory training sessions on employee rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

“These workers, not even union members yet, have now experienced the real value of union membership: having a strong organization to stand behind them and fight for their rights,” Cook stressed.

“I am hopeful that this settlement will serve as a notice to other employers across the state, because the message is simple: We won’t back down, and we’ll fight for employees who are wronged,” Cook said.

“Unions are about all of us, collectively, standing together and using our power. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder to fight back. The workers at Shangri-La can attest to the value of rolling with UFCW Local 655. Without paying a single penny in dues, without a finished union contract, they still had our support and our guidance.”

Bargaining is expected to begin with Shangri-La in the coming weeks.

(Some information from the Missouri Independent and NLRB.)

NLRB decision will change organizing forever

The National Labor Relations Board decision in the case of Cemex Construction Materials Pacific, LLC, established “significant, pro-union changes to the way in which future union organizing and representation cases proceed,” prominent international law firm Crowell & Moring said. 

“(In) abandoning more than 50 years of settled law, the National Labor Relations Board’s recent decision in Cemex Construction Materials Pacific  changed the way in which unions will likely organize private sector employers in the United States.

“Pursuant to Cemex, if a union claims to have majority support and demands recognition, an employer must either (1) grant recognition without the benefit of an NLRB election, or (2) file its own NLRB petition seeking an election.  If the employer fails to take either step, the union can file an Unfair Labor Practice charge, and the NLRB will find a violation and order mandatory union recognition unless the employer proves the union did not have majority support in an appropriate bargaining unit.

“And even if the employer files a petition for election (an “RM petition”), the NLRB may cancel the election and issue a bargaining order if the employer commits virtually any unfair labor practice during the period preceding the election.”


Major cannabis organizing underway

A massive informational/organizing effort will be launched in the eastern half of Missouri at over hundreds cannabis shops by UFCW Local 655 and the UFCW International Union within the next few weeks, the Labor Tribune has learned.

As a result of the unique victory by UFCW Local 655 at the Columbia, Mo. Shangri-La cannabis dispensary, a major informational campaign is designed to bring the good news to cannabis workers throughout Local 655’s jurisdiction. Representatives from the UFCW International Union will join Local 655 organizers and Shangri-La workers in the effort.

Local 655 currently has four cannabis dispensaries organized with negotiations continuing. To date, it’s the only union to successfully organize cannabis workers in Missouri.

“We have had more interest in cannabis workers unionizing for a fair contract, wages, benefits and working conditions than in any industry that I’ve seen in my career,” Cook said. “The interest there is unbelievable.”

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