UFCW workers protesting in front of the Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center in Portsmouth, RI on April 20, 2022. Credit: Submitted / UFCW Local 328

Employees of Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center in Portsmouth, RI, rallied outside of their place of work on April 20, to inform customers of the ongoing negotiation fight with management after voting to join the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 328.

The rally, which was specifically held on 4/20, an important holiday within cannabis culture, as a means of holding Greenleaf’s feet to the fire amid labor negotiations that have dragged on for almost a year after the employees voted to join a union.

“They wanted to take that day to really connect and communicate to their patients about what’s going on,” said Sam Marvin, an organizing director with UFCW Local 328. “This is what has been going on for a year now.”

The workers passed out flyers to customers accusing GreenLeaf CEO Seth Bock of violating a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board over retaliatory actions following the successful union vote. The flyer also alleges that Bock fired four employees in the last two months without just cause, and that he has been deliberately drawing out negotiations with the union on a labor contract.

Bock did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

The workers first petitioned for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board on Feb. 16, 2021. That election eventually resulted in a 21-1 victory for the union on April 6, 2021. That vote included budtenders, keyholders, online team members, and delivery associates, according to a press release announcing that vote from UFCW Local 328.

The union vote appears to have been contentious from the beginning, with Greenleaf allegedly bringing in out of state consultants in the weeks before the vote. About two months after the vote, the company fired one of its employees, who claimed it was because of his organizing activities. The workers subsequently staged a one-day strike.

The workers and management continued to butt heads leading to over a dozen unfair labor practice charges filed with the NLRB, leading to a trial that was scheduled for the end of December, 2021.

Just before the trial began Greenleaf reached a settlement agreement on Dec. 17 that included the reinstatement of the previously fired employee with back pay. Greenleaf also agreed to reinstate certain benefits, such as the company’s Friday lunch and employee discount programs, according to Marvin.

Despite those promises, since the settlement, Greenleaf has failed to adhere to the settlement and continues to stall on negotiating, according to Marvin.

“Since then [Bock] has continued to violate that agreement,” he said.

Two days prior to the 4/20 rally, UFCW Local 328 filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that Greenleaf was engaged in bad faith bargaining.

“We’re no strangers to union busting efforts. We expect them,” said Marvin. “The company has just been particularly irresponsible and reckless with how they responded to the workers’ organizing efforts.”

Marvin also noted that the 4/20 rally was not a strike, but rather an attempt to engage with the dispensary’s medical patients.

“These workers love their jobs,” said Marvin. “They love their patients and that’s what yesterday was all about.”

The workers at Greenleaf were the second to organize a cannabis establishment in Rhode Island, after the workers at Ocean State Cultivation Center in Warwick also voted to join the UFCW Local 328 in the fall of 2020.

A union win is all the more significant because Rhode Island currently only has three dispensaries in the state, although that is expected to change this summer when five operators that were awarded medical dispensary licenses last fall with a 9-month deadline for commencing operation.

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Zack cut his journalistic teeth covering high school sports in the south before spending a decade covering local government, politics and the courts in the Boston, Massachusetts area. He's previously written...