The fight to win union rights for Canadian medical cannabis workers has entered a new chapter with hearings underway at Ontario’s Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal for workers at MedReleaf, a licensed producer in Markham with approximately 50 employees.

Employees at the LP have been trying to join UFCW Canada (United Food and Commercial Workers union) for nearly two years. The struggle began in May 2015 when workers at the 55,000 square foot marijuana production facility contacted the trade union to look into joining. After a majority of MedReleaf wstaff chose to sign union cards, UFCW Canada applied for certification at both the provincial and federal labour boards.

But shortly after the applications were filed, the federal labour board ruled that it did not have jurisdiction over the matter, despite the fact that medical cannabis production is tightly regulated by both Health Canada and the RCMP.

Within days of the federal ruling, MedReleaf reportedly began firing the leaders of the union drive. UFCW Canada in turn filed charges of unfair labour practices against the LP at the Ontario Labour Relations Board. Before the hearings into the charges began, the provincial labour board deemed the workers to be agriculture workers in December 2015, despite the factory-like dynamic of many medical cannabis facilities.

“This is about achieving justice for all cannabis workers,” says Philip Manorath, one of the leading pro-union voices at MedReleaf and the first to be terminated following the organizing campaign. “There is no reason why cannabis workers should be denied the right to form a union and bargain collectively, when every other worker in Ontario has the right to do so.”

Since agriculture workers in Ontario are excluded from the provincial Labour Relations Act, the Board’s ruling effectively stripped workers of the right to unionize and bargain collectively. Soon after the provincial ruling, MedReleaf terminated even more union supporters. To date, 11 union supporters have been terminated by MedReleaf, including all of the leaders who started the organizing campaign.

Having been rejected by both the federal and provincial labour boards, the only avenue left for MedReleaf workers is the AFRAA tribunal. The tribunal is available to any agricultural worker whose right to freedom of association has been violated. However, this is only the second time in history that the concerns of workers seeking to bargain collectively have been heard by the tribunal.

The tribunal has begun twelve days of hearings in Toronto. Should the tribunal rule in favour of the union, UFCW Canada hopes that the workers will be reinstated with full back-pay, and that the company will be legally obligated to negotiate a collective agreement with the union.

  • bob

    hahaha. the big LP’s. only want enforced rules to. hopefully. restrict. others from entering the business….
    now their workers want a fair wage and suddenly they are against. rules to pay. fairly.

    amazing when it benefits them they support it and when not they fire people. who fight for their rights

    hahaha. same old same old with these corporate shills

    they will surely have trouble with quality production if employees. do not. feel good about the work….

    they will also not be able to cheat if employees do not feel. any respect from employer.
    as happened with an x mettrum. employee. ratting them out for hiding poisonous chemicals in the ceiling

    does anybody know if there is a investigation into that???their license should be revoked…same with the other ones who just cannot figure out. how that happened

    someone should talk to the employees. and they will see a similar situation

    accidental transgression is one thing. knowingly. doing this to their patients is. hmmm illegal if not. certainly immoral

    hey heres an idea why do not these guys sell out to Walmart

    the reality. is if they treat their employees. with disdain they will do the same with their customers

    they will find that corporate mentality will go bad weed….this plant responds to all environmental factors

    including assholeism. and these corporate shills are such

    marijuana does not like them hahahaha. accountants grow money. growers. grow weed..

    OMG. level the field and these thieves can go away as there is no chance they can compete against. people who know what they are doing and actually care about what they send out

    if they weren’t so busy trying to pocket their millions from deceiving everyone. they would find that good energy from good relationships with everyone involved would. actually in the end be better for their bottom line

    • Robert Wright

      I agree bob the whole LP system reeks of corruption just the fact that you can only enter this club if you can afford the very expensive membership fees this club is only for filthy rich friends of the government.
      The rest of us have been slapped in the face lied to and screwed over by Trudeau and no doubt will soon be told we can’t grow our own and even if they do legally allow home growing there will be to many rules,regulations and fees.
      What they don’t know is we won’t go away and we will do what we have always done.