Trulieve defends response to worker’s death
Says Lorna McMurrey was offered paid time off
FACING PUBLIC SCRUTINY of its worker safety practices after cannabis worker Lorna McMurrey’s death, multi-state cannabis company Trulieve on Thursday released a lengthy statement defending its practices and explaining for the first time the circumstances surrounding McMurrey’s death after working a shift at Trulieve’s Holyoke cultivation facility.
The three-page statement issued by Trulieve spokesperson Rob Kremer said the company wants to address “incorrect information” that is circulating about the company’s response to the death. “To correct these errors, Trulieve is providing the following information about its facility and the events surrounding Ms. McMurrey’s tragic death,” the statement said.
The circumstances surrounding McMurrey’s death were first reported publicly in late September by cannabis activist Mike Crawford on his The Young Jurks podcast. By that time, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration had investigated and fined Trulieve for failing to properly communicate with employees about hazardous substances. The story was picked up by numerous other media outlets, including CommonWealth.
McMurrey was working in Trulieve’s Holyoke facility when she collapsed on January 4, 2022. She died three days later at Baystate Hospital. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and McMurrey’s family, she was unable to breathe after inhaling ground cannabis dust.
Emergency services arrived quickly, and once they arrived, it took EMS personnel less than a minute to begin providing medical attention to McMurrey.
Trulieve said these facts run counter to statements made in various media outlets, which said McMurrey was not offered time off and not given prompt medical attention.
There have also been questions raised about the facility’s working conditions. McMurrey’s stepfather Dave Bruneau has said McMurrey asked him to get her high-quality masks to wear at work. The Boston Globe quoted a former supervisor at the facility who said Trulieve only provided paper, medical-type masks.
Trulieve, in its statement, said the company provides N95 masks to employees. On January 4, Trulieve said, McMurrey wore an N95 mask for at least a portion of the day.
The company also defended air quality at the Holyoke facility. Trulieve said it installed and consistently operated industrial air handling systems designed to frequently exchange and filter indoor air associated with processing areas of the facility. The facility has an industrial air filtration system, certified by an independent engineer, that exchanges the air in the grinding room. It has two air scrubbers for odor control that exchange and clean air.
Trulieve reiterated that OSHA’s investigation tested multiple air quality samples and all “complied with relevant standards.” Trulieve has contested OSHA’s findings of violations related to hazard communication.
Trulieve said it trains employees in first aid, and all three employees who provided CPR to McMurrey were CPR-certified and attended a training less than a month earlier. One employee used an on-site automated external defibrillator.
In its statement, Trulieve said it notified the CCC and OSHA of McMurrey’s collapse within 24 hours, and of her death the next business day.
“We believe we have demonstrated a safe and healthy work environment, but we will of course work with OSHA and the Massachusetts CCC to address their concerns,” the Trulieve statement said. “We want our employees to know they are safe and protected and that we are open to good ideas about any improvements that are necessary.” The company says it will work with regulators “to develop appropriate industry best practices that protect all our workers.”
“Our thoughts are with the McMurrey family for their loss,” the statement says. “Trulieve will continue to operate its facilities in a manner that fully protects the health and safety of all employees. We are confident we did so in January and will continue to do so going forward.”
There are ongoing investigations into Trulieve by the Cannabis Control Commission and the Department of Public Health. The CCC has said it began its investigation before McMurrey’s death, in the fall of 2021, in response to employee complaints. The CCC did not specify the nature of the employee complaints, but McMurrey’s mother Laura Bruneau told The Young Jurks that McMurrey had previously been taken from work in an ambulance in November 2021.
Laura Bruneau told CommonWealth she is considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit against Trulieve.
Workers seek to unionize at Trulieve Framingham facility
Ten employees working at Trulieve’s Framingham retail cannabis dispensary on Tuesday filed a petition to unionize with the National Labor Relations Board. The group of full and part-time workers – excluding managers, supervisors, and guards – are seeking representation by the United Food and Commercial Workers, UFCW Local 1445. They are asking for an election date of November 16, when the workers will vote whether to join the union. The UFCW represents around 500 cannabis workers in Massachusetts, but no Trulieve facilities are unionized.
Kremer, of Trulieve, said in a statement, “We respect the rights all employees have to consider union membership. Trulieve also believes in working together with our employees to create a workplace that acknowledges the needs and concerns of all our team members.”
However, the UFCW is charging Trulieve with “union-busting,” or illegally trying to discourage employees from unionizing.
One complaint the UFCW filed with the National Labor Relations Board alleges that Trulieve fired a Framingham employee on October 14 because of his union activity.
A second complaint the union filed with the NLRB accuses Trulieve of engaging between October 13 and 18 in anti-union behavior, including interrogating employees about union activities, requiring employees to attend anti-union meetings, soliciting employees to revoke their union authorization cards, promising a wage increase to discourage union activity, soliciting grievances to discourage union activity, surveilling employees engaged in union activity, requesting employees to call the police on union organizers, and threatening to increase security because of union activity.
Kremer said Trulieve has not officially received any charges filed by the UFCW with the NLRB. “If or when we are notified that charges have been filed, we will respond to them promptly,” he said.Aidan Coffey, organizing director for UFCW local 1445, said to a great degree, McMurrey’s death “was the spark that ignited the campaign” for unionization. Coffey said while the Framingham workers have their own complaints related to wages and benefits, McMurrey’s death raised questions about worker safety. (A separate UFCW chapter, Local 1459, is talking to workers at Trulieve’s facilities in Holyoke and Northampton, but those workers have not yet petitioned to unionize.)
Coffey said the union filed the complaints because the company was interrogating workers about who was supporting the union and trying to spy on workers talking to union representatives during their breaks. Coffey said the employee who was fired vocally supported union representation.