Cultivation employees form first cannabis union in Connecticut

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Nearly 50 employees from Advanced Grow Labs have formed the first cannabis union in Connecticut.

Forty-eight employees from the company’s cultivation operation in West Haven joined the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 919, according to a news release.

“We are excited to bargain a contract and set the standard for all cannabis workers in this state,” UFCW Local 919 President Mark Espinosa said in a statement.

“We know there is strength in numbers, and now many workers to come will benefit from the hard work done by these workers at Advanced Grow Labs.”

Advanced Grow Labs, which was acquired by Chicago-based multistate operator Green Thumb Industries in a deal initially valued at $80 million in 2019, is one of only four companies in Connecticut licensed to grow and process cannabis.

More operators will likely unionize in the state, in large part because of stipulations in the law that ushered in adult-use retail in 2021.

The law requires all cannabis licensees to enter into a labor peace agreement with a bona fide labor organization as a condition of final approval.

A labor peace agreement, however, doesn’t require that workers join a union. It instead provides a path to form one.

In the past few years, cannabis workers in Canada and several U.S. markets, including California, Illinois, New Jersey and Missouri, have joined unions seeking better pay, representation, benefits and overall job security.

Connecticut launched adult-use retail Jan. 10 with only 13 cannabis companies of any kind licensed to take part in Day One sales.