REI workers who are represented by the UFCW and RWDSU recently held coordinated actions across eight states in response to the retailer’s decision to unilaterally restructure jobs and working conditions in all its stores. REI failed to meet its legal responsibility to negotiate with the union before implementing these changes, and as a result, unionized workers also filed a national Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge with the National Labor Relations Board.
REI workers coordinated customer actions outside of eight store locations in SoHo N.Y.; Berkeley, Calif.; Cleveland, Ohio; Chicago, Ill.; Boston, Mass.; Durham, N.C.; Maple Grove, Minn.; and Bellingham, Wash. The workers handed out informational flyers to customers to raise awareness about REI’s mistreatment of its workers and continued failure to meet unionized workers at the bargaining table to negotiate over these changes. The coordinated actions and ULP charge came on the heels of REI worker walkouts at the Chicago and Maple Grove stores in response to the unlawful restructuring and a wave of unionization efforts by REI workers across the country.
The company’s unilateral workplace changes have led to mass layoffs, reduced hours, demotions, and other challenges for REI workers in their stores, affecting both unionized and non-unionized workers.
“I was shocked to hear a scripted dismissal from REI after being promoted to a lead position as a direct result of my work ethic and commitment to REI’s core values,” said Em Beckett (she/they), a REI Knoxville sales lead who was laid off. “My heart goes out to the other dedicated sales leads, many of whom spent decades at the co-op developing extensive product knowledge and passionate customer service. Since I worked at a non-union store, there is no legal recourse available to me and the countless others who want to hold REI accountable to the co-op way we actually believed in.”
“REI has an obligation, not only to its workers, but to the law,” said Graham Gale (they/them), who is REI SoHo bike mechanic and union member. “Its decision to gut stores and lay off some of our most experienced staff is not only devastating, but a violation of our labor rights. We are the ones who have made REI as successful as it is, and it is time we are treated with the respect we deserve. Enough is enough and we are standing together to call on REI to meet us at the bargaining table, as is our federally protected right.”
“One thing is absolutely clear: it’s time for REI to be held accountable and live up to its supposed progressive values,” said Clare Davis (she/her), who is a Berkeley REI worker and union bargaining committee member. “Management’s refusal to comply with basic labor law, while simultaneously choosing to unlawfully lay off some of their most loyal workers is crushing to those of us who believed in REI’s vision. Today, we stand together in support of our fellow workers at all REI stores across the nation who unjustly lost their livelihood as a result of management’s actions.”