As New Yorkers eagerly await regulation of the state’s adult cannabis market, one thing is already certain: Marijuana license applicants will have to make peace with pre-arranged work.
A clause in state marijuana regulation and taxation law states that anyone seeking a license must first sign a peace agreement with a “good faith labor organization.” This mandate causes unions to consider the tens of thousands of workers expected to enter the market, said Nikki Kateman, political and communications director for Local 338 RWDSU / UFCW.
“This will be a really good opportunity to build an industry from scratch and do it right,” Kateman said.
Since 2016, Local 338 has entered into collective agreements with six of the 10 medical marijuana companies registered in New York City, she said, and the union represents about 70% of the total workforce. , or about 500 employees.
Local 338 is capitalizing on this experience to attract cannabis workers throughout the emerging market.
“Our ultimate goal is here: we want this industry to be successful because we want workers to be successful,” she said.
Kateman will co-host a panel on cannabis industry staffing and recruiting at the New York Cannabis Insider half-day conference on Thursday, October 28. (Tickets are available here). What follows is a pre-event question-and-answer session. It is edited for length and clarity.
NYCI: When and how did Local 338 get involved in the New York cannabis market?
KATEMAN: Local 338 arrived at cannabis policy in New York around 2012 for several reasons:
First, we listened to some of the horror stories that were happening early in the development of the cannabis industry: workers who were paid in products, in operation, and paid in cash.
But also, after starting to get involved in coalitions to legalize medical cannabis and hearing from parents who had children with seizure disorders, knowing firsthand someone who could have benefited from cannabis – I think we have been put in a position where we all looked at each other and said, “We want to be on the right side of history”. And it’s a moral obligation that we fight for patients, that we fight for their families.
This is a unique opportunity to create a whole new industry and we want to make sure this industry serves New Yorkers when they get their prescriptions filled, as well as New Yorkers who are looking for a job.
NYCI: Can you talk about the benefits for cannabis workers, like medical care or retirement, and how the union plays a role in this?
KATEMAN: We have negotiated contracts that set the standards for what cannabis careers can and should be in New York City.
These are mostly full-time jobs, which, especially in retail, is unprecedented. Our members benefit from guaranteed salary increases, paid vacation, full family medical coverage at no cost to them (in addition to the co-pay). There is a provision for retirement security. They also benefit from standard protections at work.
NYCI: How is your union approaching the social equity aspect of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act?
KATEMAN: We represent workers who live and work in communities that have been disproportionately affected by the over-enforcement of drug prohibition laws and policy. Looking at the MRTA, we said, “Sounds great, we want to see opportunities for the owners”, but what is really essential about this bill is that we want to make sure it There are also opportunities for people who may not want to be an operator-owner, or may not be licensed, but still want to enter the industry.
We should put in place a system where these are not part-time minimum wage jobs. We should create an industry where anyone can be successful and create a system that has set up a career path: you walk into a retail dispensary, you could become a manager, and then maybe someday you apply for your own license, right? There is an opportunity here for everyone to do well and really make sure that when we talk about community reinvestment, it also happens at the workforce level.
NYCI: MRTA demands that candidates enter into a labor peace agreement with an established union. Can you describe these agreements?
KATEMAN: I think people have a misconception about labor peace agreements. They assume that implies that a union is going to step in and slam a contract, or somehow set the parameters for hiring and firing and dictating policies. It is not that at all.
A labor peace agreement is a document signed by, in this case, a potential candidate / future licensee and a trade union which essentially states the meaning of neutrality.
Thus, the employer will not interfere with any kind of conversations. They will remain really neutral when it comes to the workers who decide for themselves whether or not they want to join a union. In turn, the union will also remain neutral – not to disparage the employer or encourage any kind of interference with the business or economy of the company.
The basis of this is essentially to create a level playing field so that workers can decide for themselves whether or not they want to join a union.
NYCI: As New York City rolls out its recreational cannabis industry, what are your priorities over the next six months to a year?
KATEMAN: Our most immediate priority is to find out what the regulations are and make sure they make sense in terms of the state workforce.
The other priority concerns the question of opt-outs. It is a concern for us. We have spoken at a number of hearings and met with local city leaders who recognize this has a direct impact on the industry.
In my experience, there is a misconception about who works in this industry. We went to these meetings and invited members to speak and said, “This is someone who works in the industry. It is not a hectic place. There are rules and regulations that everyone must follow. We might not know exactly what the regulations will be for adult use, but we have a pretty good idea based on what’s going on with medical marijuana in a retail dispensary, or what’s going on in neighboring states.
Our priority has therefore been to bring the workers’ point of view to these withdrawal conversations. And it’s not just about losing income, we stress it’s about losing job opportunities, as well as opportunities for the economic production that comes with jobs.
Cannabis insider in New York is hosting an unmissable conference on October 28 with a focus on market readiness. To manage here to see the program and buy tickets.