REI Retail Workers in New York Unionise
Around 115 employees from the outdoor retailer’s Soho location filed to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) on Friday, according to the New York Times. The group also asked the company to recognise the union — a move that wouldn’t require them to vote.
REI is best known for selling outdoors equipment, in addition to stocking apparel from brands like Nike, the North Face, Arc’teryx and Under Armour. The company has about 170 stores and 15,000 employees.
“We respect the rights of our employees to speak and act for what they believe—and that includes the rights of employees to choose or refuse union representation,” a spokesperson told BoF in an email. “However, we do not believe placing a union between the co-op and its employees is needed or beneficial.” The company added it would work closely with the Soho team to resolve concerns.
In 2020, REI was hit with criticism from employees who said the company wasn’t properly notifying retail workers about known Covid exposures. One employee involved in the union told the Times that they recently had organised because of “a tangible shift in the culture at work that doesn’t seem to align with the values that brought most of us here.”
REI is the latest company to have employees unionise, as Covid-19 brings new stresses to the retail workforce. Last month, two Starbucks locations in Buffalo, NY voted to join Workers United, a service employees’ union. Those locations were the only Starbucks stores in the US to unionise, but 20 other locations have since started unionising. Next month, workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama will vote to unionise for a second time after results from an initial vote were tossed due to Amazon’s reported interference.
Editor’s note: This article was updated on 24 January, 2022 with comment from REI.
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