Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

May 16, 2023

First employee union forms in CT’s cannabis industry

Skyler Frazer | Hartford Business Journal Luis Vega, CEO of upstart cannabis company Nautilus Botanicals, speaks at a cannabis union event outside the Capitol in Hartford in 2022.

Employees at West Haven cannabis cultivator Advanced Grow Labs have formed the first union within the state’s growing marijuana industry, officials announced. 

In total, 48 workers at Advanced Grow Labs, owned by Chicago-based multistate cannabis operator Green Thumb Industries, have formed a union with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 919. The company grows cannabis and processes other products at its West Haven facility for both Connecticut’s medical and recreational cannabis markets.

Last March, the Connecticut AFL-CIO, one of the most powerful unions in Connecticut and nationwide, endorsed the UFCW as the Connecticut Cannabis Union, essentially giving it a stamp of approval as a credible group to join.

According to union officials, the employees formed their union with a focus on gaining higher wages, improving benefits and securing important workplace protections.

UFCW Local 919 Organizing Director Emily Sabo told the Hartford Business Journal UFCW represents tens of thousands of cannabis workers across the country and has been involved in the industry for more than a decade.

The state’s cannabis legalization law from 2021 requires companies to sign labor peace agreements ensuring they won’t prevent employees from organizing. The agreements, sometimes referred to as neutrality agreements, lay out how companies and labor organizations can behave during union organizing. They require employers to remain neutral during a unionization process, while preventing unions from picketing or holding work stoppages.

“Any company that’s operating for recreational sales has to sign a labor peace agreement with a bona fide labor union, so that means employers should be taking a neutral approach to their organizing efforts and workers should be comfortable to form a union at their workplace if they want to,” Sabo said in March.

Shipman & Goodwin Partner Sarah Westby, who chair’s the firm’s cannabis practice, said a handful of other states have also included neutrality or labor peace agreements in their legalization laws.

“We always tell employers that you can provide truthful information such as the cost of union dues, you can point them to factual resources, you can offer them protection if they’re feeling harassed or bullied about making a decision, but you have to be very careful about what you say about the unions because you can’t say anything that could be perceived as trying to discourage them from joining,” Westby said.

Sign up for Enews


Order a PDF