About 56 workers at REI Inc. in Beachwood, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland and the only REI location in the greater metropolitan area, voted to join the RWDSU/UFCW on March 3.
The REI store in Cleveland is the third organizing win for the national REI campaign. The RWDSU/UFCW represents workers at the REI SoHo Co-op store in New York City, which was the first REI store in the country to become unionized, and UFCW Local 5 represents workers at the REI store in Berkeley, Calif. The worker-led unionization effort in Cleveland has been underway for well over a year, but workers cited the first win at the REI SoHo Co-op store in New York City as having put the “battery in our backs” to push to a majority of card signers and file for election.
The REI Cleveland workers endured an exceptionally harsh union busting campaign that included an attempt by REI to delay their election entirely, as well as conducting intimidating one-on-one meetings with workers and managers, spreading inaccurate and incomplete information with workers at daily morning huddles run by management, and unlawful surveillance of the workers by outside REI management that descended into Beachwood from other REI stores, leading to multiple Unfair Labor Practice charges against REI. Despite these union busting actions, REI Cleveland workers stood strong together and prevailed.
The vote to unionize REI Cleveland was conducted by an in-person secret ballot vote on-site at the Beachwood store on March 3, overseen by the Cleveland office of the National Labor Relations Board. The RWDSU will represent approximately 56 workers in contract negotiations, which will commence this year. The store currently operates under its full capacity, potentially increasing that number. This bargaining unit is composed of all non-supervisory employees at the store, including all full- and part-time sales specialists, technical specialists, visual presentation specialists, shipping and receiving specialists, certified technicians and mechanics, operations leads, sales leads, and shipping and receiving leads.
“Tonight, we can finally say that REI Cleveland is a union store,” said Nick Heilgeist, who is a retail sales specialist at REI and served as a member of the REI Cleveland Organizing Committee. “I love working at REI, and with a seat at the table, I know we can make it better for workers and customers alike. As new members of the RWDSU, we green vests are united in our desire to create more transparent and consistent policies and a workplace that will be sustainable for workers for years to come. As we enter contract negotiations alongside our union family in SoHo and Berkeley, we’d like to remind REI that we always ‘start from a place of respect,’ and we hope they will, too.”