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.