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Saturday, January 1, 2022

Great union win in Portsmouth

Greenleaf bosses fold, meet union demands in Portsmouth

By Steve Ahlquist in UpRiseRI

In an unqualified victory or labor rights, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local Union 328, representing 11,000 Rhode Island and Massachusetts workers, today announced a victory for Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center employees in Portsmouth, Rhode Island after the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) completed their investigation.

UFCW Local 328 had filed charges with the NLRB against Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center for violating workers’ rights, including the termination of employee and bargaining committee member Ben Telford, the elimination of employee discounts during a 6-week period, the elimination of the Friday lunch program, and transfer of bargaining unit work to a new classification. Additional charges included interrogation, surveillance and disparagement of employees for their union activity. After an investigation, the NLRB issued complaints on each of these charges against Greenleaf.

Just a day before the trial was set to take place, Greenleaf offered to settle on every complaint.

The agreed to settlement includes:

  • Back pay for employees during a six-week period the company did not extend their employee discount to eligible union voters;
  • Back pay for employees affected by the company’s elimination of the Friday lunch program for the past 25 weeks;
  • The immediate reinstatement of the Friday lunch program;
  • The offer of reinstatement to employee Ben Telford, who was illegally terminated by the company in June, with compensation of full back pay for wages, interest and additional compensation;
  • The immediate restoration and protection of bargaining unit work for keyholders; and,
  • A signed commitment by the company to not interfere with employees’ rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, to not disparage, surveil, discipline or discharge workers for their union activity, to not create new positions to avoid collective-bargaining obligations, to not transfer work to managers or other employees because of their union activity, and a commitment to bargain in good faith with UFCW Local 328.

“We are pleased with the results of the investigations from the National Labor Relations Board and the signed commitments we secured in this settlement agreement. We would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to the NLRB for their hard work during the investigation of numerous labor complaints that were filed against our employer,” said Greenleaf employees in a statement. 

“While we should not have had to experience these unfair labor practices to begin with, it was extremely reassuring to know that we as workers had a formal means of recourse when our employer committed these infractions. While forming a union can be a challenging and arduous process, we know that it is one of the few options we have as workers to create a more stable and predictable future. 

“We encourage workers to continue to organize with each other both within individual companies and across the industry,” continued Greenleaf employees. “We want to thank UFCW Local 328 for all of its continued support and the resources we’ve been given through this process. We look forward to continuing to build a healthier and secured future for all of us at Greenleaf by completing our first union contract in the near future.”

As the Rhode Island General Assembly moves to legalize the use of recreational marijuana in the coming year, labor organizing will be key to ensuring that workers get a good share of the profits. Over a year ago Ocean State Cultivation Center (OSCC) employees unionized with UFCW, setting an important precedent for the expanding medical marijuana industry in Rhode Island. 

“As this industry grows, so does our need to make sure our best interests are taken into consideration,” said Matthew Baryshyan, who works in cultivation at OSCC. “We now have better wages, a pension plan, full benefits, vacation time, and the list goes on. The UFCW is making sure there is a future in cannabis and it’s a bright one.”

The employees at Greenleaf held a one-day strike on June 26, 2021, to protest the illegal firing of Ben Telford, a keyholder who was illegally terminated for his union activity. With this settlement agreement, Greenleaf has offered Telford reinstatement to his position and will compensate him with full back pay for all lost wages, interest and additional compensation.

UpriseRI spoke with Telford at that strike:

“We are proud of the workers at Greenleaf for standing together to achieve this victory,” said Sam Marvin, Director of Organizing at UFCW Local 328. “It is critical that employers are held accountable when they break the law and violate workers’ rights. This settlement represents a significant achievement for Greenleaf workers in their pursuit for justice and fairness at their workplace, and we look forward to continuing to work together to build the futures they all have earned.”