Greenleaf Terminates Employee Involved With Union Negotiations in Rhode Island; Worker Strike Ensues

When Ben Telford showed up for work June 23 at the Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center in Portsmouth, R.I., he was shocked to learn that his employment was terminated.

In April, Greenleaf Portsmouth employees became the first cannabis workers in the state to unionize after a 21-1 vote to join the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 328. The organized Greenleaf team includes budtenders, keyholders, online team members and delivery associates.

Employed by Greenleaf since May 2020, Telford was a keyholder at the Portsmouth medical cannabis retail facility in Portsmouth, where his responsibilities included opening and closing the store, cash management and day-to-day operations, as well as performing other duties in the absence of management. He was also a member of Greenleaf’s union bargaining committee, a role he retains.

Courtesy of UFCW Local 328Ben Telford, second from right, had his employment as a keyholder at the Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center in Portsmouth, R.I., terminated on June 23. 

“I was definitely shocked,” Telford said of his termination. “I’m a hard worker, both on the job, at the site, and then off the job as far as the effort to unionize and get our team together and get a contract negotiated.”

While his termination came as a surprise, Telford said he had thought about the possibility.

“I’ve been a very loud voice for myself and for others on the team that worked there,” he said. “But the reason I was given the day I was terminated … was that my services were no longer required. And when I asked for further explanation, I was told that there was none needed to be given at the time, so I gathered my belongings and left for the afternoon and said goodbye to everybody.”

Telford was informed of his termination by Greenleaf’s chief of staff and director of retail operations, but he said it’s his understanding that the decision came from Greenleaf CEO Seth Bock. Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary reached out to Bock for comment but as of June 30 have not yet received a response.

According to a UFCW Local 328 press release, Telford’s termination is only the latest in a string of firings by Bock. “In the last six months, the Greenleaf CEO has fired the director of retail operations, the head of delivery, the human resources manager and the chief operating officer.”

In addition, Telford said the director of inventory at a Greenleaf cultivation facility was also terminated recently.

“It depends on the person, but, overall, it’s been very retaliatory,” Telford said. “The owner, Seth Bock, has been allowed to move as he pleases. And, overall, when people get the skills that require higher pay and have had a long tenure, he’s been known to just kind of clear house and get some fresh faces that are happy to be there, because getting in the cannabis is something that a lot of people want to do.”

The UFCW Local 328, which represents more than 11,000 workers in a range of industries throughout Rhode

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