You are here

REI, union agree to hold election after Cleveland employees walk out

Published February 3, 2023

CLEVELAND (BRAIN) — After REI Co-op’s Beachwood suburb store employees walked off the job minutes before their shifts Friday morning, the store agreed to terms with the union to hold an election.

According to the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), employees returned to work at 1:30 p.m. The agreement came after employees walked out at 9:45 a.m., demanding the right to vote in a free and fair National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election and for the company to stop what the RWDSU called "unlawful surveillance" of workers.

The election will include all NLRB-eligible workers at the Ohio store, a reversal from REI’s position last week. It will take place on March 3 from noon-6 p.m. EST at the Beachwood store. 

The workers walked out as an NLRB hearing was about to begin Friday. The hearing was scheduled because of workers’ demands for the right to vote in a free and fair election and “for the company to stop its union busting.” REI wanted to remove more than half of the eligible members and to dismiss the election at the hearing, the union said. 

The RWDSU called the hearing a distraction on Monday; the union said it was intended to silence workers' voices.

Previous union elections took place at the New York City and Berkeley, California, REI 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.

REI issued a statement to BRAIN on Monday saying it is working with the NLRB to determine “the parameters of Cleveland’s election process.” When reached for comment Friday morning after the walkout, REI corporate said the store would be open in the afternoon.

"It is not clear why union organizers have sought to inflame tensions around the routine legal process between REI, the RWDSU, and the NLRB," REI said.

In a letter Thursday to Store Manager Ethan Sheets, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said Beachwood non-supervisory employees should have the same right as New York City and Berkeley store employees to vote in a union election without interference.

“Our country has a long tradition of workers gaining a voice in the workplace through collective bargaining. You said it best in a recent statement to ‘The decision to be represented by a union is up to (the) employees — not the REI leadership team, Board of Directors or anyone else.’ I hope that this previous public statement — that REI supports workers' right to make their own decisions on whether or not to pursue collective bargaining rights — is still the company's position.”

Join the Conversation