Article by Dale Carruthers, London Free Press
The union representing some WeedMD production workers is battling the Southwestern Ontario cannabis firm’s demand for names of employees who have signed union cards, information the union says it won’t reveal.
Workers at WeedMD, a licensed marijuana producer that employs more than 200 in Strathroy, Aylmer and Bowmanville, have been signing union cards with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union since last month.
A lawyer representing WeedMD wrote the union asking for the names of workers who have signed union cards, national representative Kevin Shimmin said.
“For WeedMD to say that we need to provide those names is a long stretch and we’re definitely not going to do that,” Shimmin said. “We have to protect the confidentiality of the people who are signing cards.”
The London-based company cited a ruling from the Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal, in a failed UFCW bid to organize workers at Markham-based medical pot producer MedReleaf, to justify its request.
“In order for there to be any productive discussions, it is necessary for the employer to know exactly whom the association represents and that the association has the proper authority from the employee to make representations on that employee’s behalf,” the tribunal said in its ruling.
But the UFCW says the tribunal ruled the union had to show that they represent employees, not provide workers’ names.
“There’s no precedent as far as what was acceptable between the two parties to demonstrate that the union does represent the employees,” Shimmin said.
In Ontario, cannabis production workers are considered agricultural employees and fall under the provincial Agricultural Employees Protection Act (AEPA), legislation the union claims violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by failing to protect workers’ right to freedom of association. The act sets out a different process for unionizing workers than in other Ontario labour laws.
WeedMD spokesperson Marianella delaBarrera said the union must follow the act and denied allegations that union-supporting workers could face reprisals.