UFCW, medical marijuana grower ink labor contract in Rhode Island

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Organized labor continues to make inroads into the cannabis industry with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) announcing the first agreement with a medical marijuana cultivator in Rhode Island.

The contract between UFCW and Warwick-based Ocean State Cultivation Center provides for a “living wage,” comprehensive benefits, safe working conditions and opportunities for career advancement, according to a UFCW Local 328 news release.

A Local 328 official told the Providence Business News that the labor contract is a two-year agreement that includes language that would bring additional workers into the bargaining agreement should Ocean State win more MMJ licenses.

The UFCW-Ocean State agreement  follows a labor peace agreement in 2019. Experts say labor peace agreements, which are increasingly being required in the industry, are more likely to lead to unionization of a workplace.

The contract comes on the heels of an increase in union organizing activity in Massachusetts, Illinois and California.

While much of the unionizing efforts predate the coronavirus pandemic, health risks related to COVID-19 have provided additional incentive for workers to organize.

The UFCW release indicated that Sacramento, California-based Perfect Union, characterized as Ocean State’s parent company, has been a strong partner with the union.

Amid the first coronavirus outbreak, Perfect Union started paying employees, including those in Rhode Island, a bonus of $2.50 an hour, according to a UFCW release.