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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

The Union Clause Draws the Republican Party Ire

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Conditional licenses to grow marijuana have been approved by both houses of the state legislature.

But Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R. Jamestown, says the legislation (A.9283/S8084A) will not be of much benefit to Chautauqua County farmers. According to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, there is only one certified cannabis producer in Chautauqua County. Only licensed cannabis growers can obtain a conditional adult use license or a conditional processor license for adult use.

Goodell also addressed a particular issue with a provision requiring those who receive a license to enter into a labor peace agreement with a labor organization that represents or attempts to represent farm employees within six months of receiving the license.

“Lawyers sometimes talk about contracts of accession, and this is a contract with a negotiating party that is not on a fair and equal playing field where they have to sign a contract,” Goodell said. This creates exactly this situation. Because if you’re a private sector employer and you’re not a union member and your employees don’t want to join unions, you can’t get into that business and you can’t get a conditional license unless you negotiate an agreement with a union. Now imagine that you are a farmer and I represent the guild. When we sit down, my first question to you is, “Do you want to be at work?” And if you do, my second question is, “Let’s talk about money. Because unless you make a deal with me, you’re not in business. It’s a monopoly. And union under this monopoly holds every card.”

Senator Michelle Henchy, D-Kingston and sponsor of the Senate legislation, said conditional licenses are necessary to get the adult cannabis market up and running. In order to apply for a license, someone must have a valid Industrial Hemp Grower License from the state Department of Agriculture and Markets as of the end of 2021, and be in good standing, growing and harvesting hemp for at least two of the preceding four years. License holders are allowed to grow hemp outdoors or in a greenhouse without artificial lighting.

The license limits the amount of cannabis that can be grown. Cannabis holders will also be able to manufacture and distribute cannabis products provided they are in the form of the cannabis flower until June 1, 2023, without the need for additional licenses. After June 1, 2023, physical processor and distributor licenses will be required. Any temporary license holders, if judged to be in good standing, will be allowed to apply for an adult cannabis cultivation license.

But for Goodell, there are serious problems with the rest of the legislation.

“That’s a strange bill,” Goodell said. “And we should be very clear that it crosses a lot of lines that we haven’t seen before in terms of creating a monopoly, and perhaps asking employers to override the objections of their employees, either enter into a contract with unions. We know that almost no farms in New York State are affiliated with unions. This is only 2-3%. So we automatically, far from the top, exclude a non-union unless they want to enter into negotiations with a union. We are moving forward without any of the regulations in place for the rest of the process.”

Assembly majority leader Crystal Peoples Stokes, de Buffalo, sponsored the legislation and was questioned in the assembly hall by 13 assembly members for about 90 minutes. She said the labor peace clause is intended to avoid issues such as those faced by Starbucks employees in Buffalo when trying to form unions. She said Starbucks did everything it could to avoid forming unions among employees, something that a labor peace agreement for marijuana growers would prevent.

“I also want to talk about the whole issue of labor peace,” She said. “That was not my preference, but then again when you are in a company where the call is for a compromise, you have to do it. You have to move forward. A labor peace agreement does not require anyone to pay dues. These employees are neither union members nor There is something forcing the farmer or the employees to create a union. All he is saying is that you can’t do things to prevent that.”

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