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Hearing will address union election concerns with REI and Cleveland location

Published January 30, 2023

CLEVELAND (BRAIN) — REI Co-op and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union failed to agree on a contract to hold an election at REI's Beachwood, Ohio, store last week. The National Labor Relations Board scheduled a hearing Friday.

In a news release issued Monday, the RWDSU said the hearing process can be a "lengthy distraction and delay, stifling workers' voices, something workers did not have to endure during the prior two REI Inc. union elections."

Previous union elections took place at the New York City and Berkeley, California, stores. Beachwood's unionization efforts have been ongoing for more than a year. On Jan. 11, its employees filed to have a union election and sought RWDSU representation.

In line with those stores, the Beachwood REI union would represent all non-supervisory employees. The RWDSU said REI claims the sales leads are supervisors under law and therefore can't unionize. It also maintains that the store's shop section workers don't not share a community of interest with the store's retail workers, and that certain workers are "casual" employees and shouldn't vote.

"REI Inc.'s request to bar clearly eligible workers from voting for their union is union busting on its face," said Stuart Appelbaum, RWDSU president. "And it's nothing but a feeble attempt to delay the union election — period. It cannot be clearer that REI's motion to remove previously eligible job classifications from this election only seeks to silence workers' voices. And these are not just any workers' voices. These are the voices of workers with the same job classifications who are already being heard at bargaining tables on both coasts. You cannot be in support of union elections and freedom of speech, and then bar more than half of your workers from voting. Let the workers at REI in Ohio have the same opportunity you gave workers on the coasts. Let workers vote, and stop these baseless delay tactics."

When reached by BRAIN on Monday afternoon, an REI spokesperson said the Cleveland store is a unique location.

"We are working with the NLRB to determine the parameters of Cleveland's election process. The RWDSU petitioned to represent Cleveland employees who should not be part of the bargaining unit because they perform supervisory duties. The union also petitioned to represent employees whose sporadic or irregular employment pattern qualifies them as 'casuals' under the NLRB's eligibility standards, and these employees are normally excluded from a bargaining unit."

The REI spokesperson said it responded to routine procedural questions from the NLRB last week that will help it determine which employees are included in the bargaining unit.

"The Feb. 3 hearing was set by the NLRB immediately after the RWDSU petitioned the NLRB for an election at our Cleveland store to determine if the parties could move forward with an election," the spokesperson said. "This is a routine step in the petition process, and we will continue to participate fully in this process."

The NLRB considers each unique working environment when deciding election matters, the REI spokesperson said.

"REI and RWDSU will have an opportunity to address Cleveland on Friday. As requested by the NLRB, REI will answer questions on which employees should or should not be a part of the election process. We will support the right of all non-supervisory sales employees to have a voice in this decision."

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