On March 2, over 100 workers at the REI SoHo Co-op store in New York City made history by joining the RWDSU/UFCW and becoming the first unionized REI store in the country. REI is an outdoor sports equipment retail chain, and REI Co-op is the company’s in-house gear brand.
These new members, who are employed as full- and part-time sales, technical, visual presentation, and shipping and receiving specialists, as well as certified technicians, and operations, sales, and shipping and receiving leads, were subjected to a union busting campaign that included captive audience meetings, a halt on promotional opportunities, and a union busting podcast. In spite of these tactics, these workers stood together to make REI the inclusive, progressive workplace it claims to be by joining the RWDSU/UFCW.
“I am proud to be here in this moment with my coworkers at REI SoHo as a part of this new wave of unionization efforts that is sweeping the nation,” said Claire Chang, who is a retail sales specialist-visual and a member of the REI SoHo Organizing Committee. “As members of the RWDSU, we know we will be able to harness our collective strength to advocate for a more equitable, safe, and enriching work environment. A union is necessary for many of us to achieve more stability and security in our lives which could allow for us to explore and play more outside of work! As green vests, we believe ‘a life outdoors is a life well lived’ and in order for that to be viable and accessible to us, we need to be at the bargaining table alongside REI leadership to work out a collective bargaining agreement that works for us. Hence, we’re hopeful that REI meets us in good faith during negotiations for our first contract, while keeping our co-op values in mind and applying them to workers, so we can all demonstrate that we really do go further…together!”
“History was made today! We’re excited to welcome the workers of REI SoHo into the RWDSU, marking the first-ever unionized REI store in the whole country,” said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum. “These workers have vast expertise in their field and have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to serve the outdoor community. They have stuck together through a horrendous union-busting campaign and have come out the other side stronger. The workers of REI SoHo are ready to negotiate a strong contract that will allow them to uphold the co-op’s progressive values while providing the top-notch service REI customers have come to expect. With a seat at the table, workers can make working at REI safe and sustainable for years to come.”