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Workers file unfair labor practice charges against REI

Published November 20, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. (BRAIN) — REI Co-op workers with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union filed 80 nationwide unfair labor practice complaints against the outdoor retailer for bad-faith bargaining practices.

The union said the federal complaints showed "a pattern of egregious anti-union behavior, emotional manipulation, and retaliatory actions against workers."

According to the union, examples included firings, changes to work schedules, and disciplinary practices. Workers from all eight unionized REI locations filed charges with their regional National Labor Relations Board offices.

Graham Gale — a mechanic at the SoHo, New York, REI store — said the company has targeted this store in particular because it was the first location to organize.

"And now, in an aggressive move, they hired Amazon's notorious union-busting attorney, Morgan Lewis," Gale said. "This decision made clear that REI is more interested in fighting its own workers than having meaningful negotiations with us. We've spent the last six months in only a handful of sessions, and seeing little agreement, while re-educating the new lawyers on our long-held issues."

The SoHo workers voted 88-14 to unionize in March 2022. The unfair labor practice filings come after worker walkouts at the Chicago; Maple Grove, Minnesota; and Boston locations. Other REI unionized stores are located in Berkeley, California; Cleveland; Durham, North Carolina; and Bellingham, Washington.

"REI disagrees with the union's contentions and will continue to fight their allegations," REI said in a statement. "We are committed and engaged in good-faith bargaining with stores that have chosen union representation and will continue to participate fully in the negotiating process."

Last month, REI announced it was cutting about 275 jobs in a restructuring of store roles — including the elimination of sales leads — and revamping scheduling. About 2% of the co-op's approximately 12,300 employees were affected.

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