A national labor union on Monday morning filed a formal complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against the Wellness Connection of Maine, accusing the medical marijuana company of subjecting its employees to unfair labor practices.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union’s complaint, filed on behalf of current and former employees of the Wellness Connection, contains 11 specific charges against the company.
The UFCW represents 1.3 million workers around the country, including “thousands” who work in the medical marijuana industry, according to Marc Goumbri, a union spokesman.
The UFCW has been helping some employees of the Wellness Connection of Maine to organize into a union.
The Wellness Connection of Maine is the state’s largest medical marijuana operation, with a cultivation facility in Auburn and dispensaries in Portland, Thomaston, Hallowell and Brewer.
Many of the charges contained within the UFCW’s filing, which was obtained by the Bangor Daily News, claim that Wellness Connection managers “unlawfully retaliated” against employees for participating in union activities. It also includes one charge that the company “unlawfully terminated” an employee for union activity.
A message left for Patricia Rosi, chief operating officer of the Wellness Connection of Maine, was not returned late Monday afternoon.
However, Rosi in April told the BDN that the company has not retaliated against employees and is not convinced a majority of workers want to unionize.
“I have nothing against unions, personally,” Rosi said April 6. “If a majority of our employees want to form a union, then there’s a process that should be followed and then we would make sure all of our employees’ voices are heard, not just a few individuals.”
The formal complaint from the UFCW is not a surprise given the fact a group of company workers, union representatives and supporters staged a protest over the same allegations outside the company’s Portland dispensary in early April.
Many of the complaints by employees began earlier this year when the Wellness Connection of Maine was cited in March by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services for 20 state code violations at its Auburn cultivation facility, including the illegal use of pesticides. The surprise inspection by state regulators, which led to the citations, was undertaken after an employee whistleblower contacted DHHS.
One of the workers who claims in the filing with the National Labor Relations Board that she was retaliated against for union activities is Barbara Heap, who worked at the company’s cultivation site in Auburn.
“For months me and my co-workers were forced to break the law as a practice of business at WCM,” Heap said in a statement distributed by the Maine AFL-CIO. “When we took a stand and joined together to address our health and safety concerns, we were intimidated and retaliated against.”
The NLRB’s regional director in Boston will investigate the claims and determine whether they should lead to formal action.
It wasn’t immediately clear how many employees in Maine the UFCW already represents, but Sarah Bigney, a spokeswoman for the Maine AFL-CIO, said the union represents workers at the Shaw’s warehouse in Wells, the Coca-Cola Bottling Co.’s warehouse in Bangor and at the Hannaford Supermarkets warehouse in South Portland.