Curaleaf violated labor law in MA cannabis union case, judge says

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U.S. cannabis multistate giant Curaleaf engaged in unfair labor practices by “implicitly” promising certain retail store workers in Massachusetts increased benefits and better employment conditions if they didn’t support unionization, a labor court judge ruled.

The 25-page decision last week by National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge Ira Sandron in Washington DC is a cautionary tale for marijuana businesses in terms of how they communicate with employees when unionizing activities are under way.

However, the judge dismissed several other allegations against Massachusetts-based Curaleaf, including a claim the company unlawfully terminated an employee because of her pro-union views.

The conflict arose when the United Food and Commercial Workers Local Union 328 began formal efforts to unionize workers at Curaleaf’s Hanover, Massachusetts, retail store in April 2020, during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.

The employees, who wanted hazard pay and better benefits, have since voted in favor of joining the union.

The critical communications occurred between management and two employees in May and June 2020 in closed-door sessions that constituted a “significant deviation” from the company’s customary practice to have short staff huddles or meetings in the open, according to the NLRB judge’s decision.

Former Curaleaf CEO Joe Lusardi, now executive vice chair, attended one of those meetings.

Sandron said he drew an “adverse inference” from Curaleaf’s decision not to call Lusardi to testify during the trial, held remotely May 4-6, 2021.

The NLRB judge characterized Curaleaf regional President Patrik Jonsson’s testimony about the meetings as being “often vague and nonspecific” and was bothered by Jonsson not keeping handwritten meeting notes.

Curaleaf didn’t immediately respond Monday to MJBizDaily‘s request for comment.

Sandron’s order calls for Curaleaf to “cease and desist” from unfair labor practices and take certain “affirmative” actions to follow lawful labor practices.