Connecticut State Senator Julie Kushner, a proponent of the state’s cannabis labor peace requirement, speaks at a presser for UFCW Local 919. Credit: Submitted / UFCW Local 919

As the process for adult use licensing gets underway in Connecticut, the state’s union locals are making deals with prospective operators to satisfy the state’s requirement for labor peace agreements.

“Peace agreement is a condition of licensure in Connecticut,” said Emily Sabo, an organizing director with UFCW Local 919. “No operators, obviously, have received a license yet to operate recreational Cannabis yet, but we have had companies reach out to us who are looking to get into the market that have signed labor peace agreements with us.”

The state’s adult use cannabis law includes a stipulation that all prospective adult use retailers obtain a labor peace agreement with a local union before they can be awarded a license. These agreements make it easier for the workforce to organize, by preventing employer lockouts in exchange for limits on picketing and work stoppages.

The law also requires project labor agreements for all cannabis construction or renovation that exceeds $5 million in cost.

“Nobody has a license yet, so we don’t know too much yet. We just know that when we wrote the bill, we wanted to give workers the opportunity to join a union, if they want and to be free from interference from either side,” said Sabo. “This is a new industry in Connecticut. So we’re looking forward to building that up and making sure that workers are taken care of.”

Those requirements were opposed by the Connecticut Medical Cannabis Council, which represents the four multi-state operators that control the state’s medical cannabis dispensaries. All four of them are expected to pursue adult use licenses.

“Any effort to coercively mandate such agreements as a condition of licensure would not only be unnecessary and unwelcomed by the employers whose workplaces such agreements would ostensibly protect,” said unsigned written testimony submitted by the CMCC last summer opposing the bill that would eventually establish the labor requirement. “It would also be subject to serious constitutional uncertainty and challenge, creating the potential for court interference and disruption in the state’s licensure and operation of cannabis establishments.”

The state opened its first 90-day window for cannabis applications on February 3, for cultivators, prospective retailers and for existing medical license holders to convert into the adult use market.

Each week, a new window opened for a different license type until March 24, when all license types became available for application. A second round of application windows is expected in the second half of 2022.

As of April, 21, the state had received 650 applications for retail outlets. Of those, six social equity applicants and six regular applicants will be drawn in a lottery.

The LPA requirement does not explicitly state that they must be made with a UFCW local, Connecticut’s two locals, 919 and 371 are best positioned to sign these agreements, considering the experience the union already has with cannabis workers.

UFCW locals across the country have gotten involved in cannabis as the various states legalize, creating new markets each year. In many of those states, labor peace agreements have been part of that growth.

“Across the country we’ve had a lot of success with labor peace agreements,” said Sabo.

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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...