NM Cannabis Control Division considers requiring union agreements as part of licensure

As part of the process to set up a recreational-use cannabis industry in New Mexico, the state’s Regulation and Licensing Department and it’s Cannabis Control Division held a public rulemaking hearing on Wednesday regarding residual solvents in cannabis manufacturing and requiring employers to work with labor unions. The proposal to require cannabis businesses to enter into a labor peace agreement with a labor union, as a condition of state licensure, did not receive much support during the hearing. 

Out of the handful of people who testified during the hearing, only one person spoke about allowable solvents used to manufacture cannabis extracts and only one person spoke in favor of the labor peace agreement proposal. 

The labor agreement proposal, if approved by RLD Superintendent Linda Trujillo, would require employers to enter into an agreement with a “bonafide labor organization that is actively engaged in representing or attempting to represent the applicant’s employees,” and that agreement would have to be “an ongoing material condition of licensure.”

But the proposal would also prohibit a labor union from organizing protests against the company. 

“For purposes of this section, a labor peace agreement between a cannabis establishment and a bona fide labor organization includes protecting the state’s interests by, at a minimum, prohibiting the labor organization from engaging in picketing, work stoppages, or boycotts against the cannabis establishment,” the proposal reads. 

Timo Serna, who said he was in favor of requiring labor agreements during his testimony and that he plans on opening a cannabis microbusiness with the hopes of expanding, argued that prohibiting strikes and walk-outs strips the rules of any effectiveness. 

“That basically takes away all the power that the employees have and being a part of a union becomes largely symbolic, because all that’s governing that is pieces of paper at that point,” Serna said. “There’s nothing else that is going to ensure that employees’ voices are going to be heard.”

Besides the one comment on solvents, all of the other participants argued that mandating a labor union agreement as a condition of licensure is a regulatory over-step by the department. 

Duke Rodriguez, the CEO and president of Ultra Health, one of the state’s more prolific medical cannabis producers, argued that not only is a required labor agreement an overstep but that it is illegal and hinted that it would likely open the department to a lawsuit.  

“This mandate is punitive to a new industry,” Rodriguez said. “How would other industry professionals respond if labor peace agreements were mandated for every license RLD currently manages? There would be an uproar.”

Rodriguez added that Ultra Health is “committed to workplace well-being” and that starting next year the company will start paying its 300 employees at least $15 per hour. 

Kristina Caffrey, a lawyer for Ultra Health also spoke about the legality of mandating labor agreements.

Lujan Grisham signs bill invalidating counties’ right-to-work laws

Supporters of right-to-work legislation in New Mexico were dealt a big blow Wednesday when Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law a bill to prohibit counties from passing their own right-to-work laws. Compulsory union fees in the public sector was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2018, but private sector unions can still require workers to pay union fees. It’s against the law for all unions to require workers to pay dues, but they can collect fees to pay for the wage and benefit bargaining. With the governor’s signature, House Bill 85—sponsored by Democratic Reps. Daymon Ely of Albuquerque and Andrea Romero of Santa Fe—invalidates resolutions passed, over a span of about 14 months in 10 New Mexico counties and one village, that barred union membership as a condition of employment.

After commission passes right-to-work, Lincoln County DA vows to defend it in court

CARRIZOZO, N.M.—The home of Billy the Kid and Smokey Bear is now the third county in New Mexico to pass a right-to-work ordinance. All five Lincoln County Commissioners voted to pass the ordinance on Tuesday after less than an hour of public comment and no remarks from the commissioners themselves, except for the few words spoken during the vote. While the commissioners had little to say about right-to-work during the public meeting, the audience was peppered with political and elected officials. Lincoln County Clerk Rhonda Burrows, Carrizozo Municipal Schools Superintendent Ricky Espinoza, Ruidoso Village Councilor Joseph Eby, 2nd Congressional District candidate Gavin Clarkson and New Mexico state Rep. Greg Nibert supported the measure during the public comment period of the meeting. At the meeting, 12th District Attorney John Sugg also offered more than just his verbal support.

New right-to-work tactic: One piece at time

As the issue of compulsory union dues and fees for public employees is pending at the U.S. Supreme Court, one New Mexico activist group is jumping from county to county, pushing local lawmakers to ban unions from requiring money to represent private sector workers. The libertarian non-profit Americans for Prosperity announced its reentry into New Mexico politics about a year ago. Funded by David and Charles Koch, Americans for Prosperity is a 501(c)(4), which means most of the group’s work has to focus on advocacy or education, rather than support or opposition of specific political candidates. Other groups with the same tax category include the American Civil Liberties Union, AARP and the National Rifle Association. In New Mexico supporters of right-to-work laws haven’t been able to pass a statewide right-to-work law for decades.

Sandoval County to consider right-to-work proposal

A big, vocal crowd is expected at a Sandoval County Commission meeting Thursday night to discuss an issue usually raised at a state level: Right-to-work. Republicans raised right to work proposals at the New Mexico State Legislature in 2015 and 2016, but were unable to pass any laws stopping unions from imposing mandatory fees on workers. Now, advocates are pushing for it at the county level. And Sandoval County is poised to be the first salvo in a bruising battle that will likely end up in the courts. Advocates like Americans for Prosperity raised the issue in Sandoval County and commissioners are expected to start the process toward passing the ordinance on Tuesday.

Striking employees confront Verizon CEO

While protesters took the streets outside to support striking Verizon workers, 10 striking employees and two union staffers went inside Hotel Albuquerque, eventually confronting the telecommunication corporation’s chief executive. As Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam wrapped up the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting inside, he finally addressed the elephant in the room. Roughly 40,000 wireline company employees across the nation are into their fourth week of striking after coming to an impasse in negotiations with Verizon management over a new contract. Related: Protesters stop traffic outside Verizon shareholder’s meeting. “While I won’t say a lot about the strike we’re experiencing today, I would like to thank the members of the union who are here today and your approach to this,” McAdam said, referring to Communication Workers of America employees in the room and picketing outside the hotel.