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REI's Manhattan store votes to unionize

Published March 3, 2022

NEW YORK (BRAIN) — REI Co-op in Manhattan became the first store in the company's chain to unionize, with the announcement coming Wednesday night. By a vote of 88-14, the SoHo location will join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

Despite the store's employees enduring what the RWDSU said was "a union-busting campaign that included captive audience meetings, a halt on promotional opportunities, and a 25-minute union-busting podcast, workers have stood together to make REI the inclusive, progressive workplace it claims to be through their union."

REI said in a statement it respects each employee's right to join or not join a union.

"We are, at our core, cooperative. Our employees are the heart of the co-op community, and their expertise, enthusiasm and joy in helping people get outside make us who we are. We greatly appreciate their hard work and dedication through what continues to be a remarkably challenging time in the world."

The vote was conducted by an in-person tally in the REI SoHo breakroom by the National Labor Relations Board. The RWDSU will represent about 116 workers in contract negotiations beginning this year. The workers in the bargaining unit include all full- and part-time sales specialists, technical specialists, visual presentation specialists, shipping and receiving specialists, certified technicians, operations leads, sales leads, and shipping and receiving leads.

"I am proud to be here in this moment with my coworkers at REI SoHo as a part of this new wave of unionization efforts that is sweeping the nation," said Claire Chang, REI SoHo organizing committee member and retail sales specialist-visual. "As members of the RWDSU, we know we will be able to harness our collective strength to advocate for a more equitable, safe, and enriching work environment.

"A union is necessary for many of us to achieve more stability and security in our lives, which could allow for us to explore and play more outside of work. As green vests, we believe 'a life outdoors is a life well lived,' and in order for that to be viable and accessible to us, we need to be at the bargaining table alongside REI leadership to work out a collective bargaining agreement that works for us. Hence, we're hopeful that REI meets us in good faith during negotiations for our first contract, while keeping our co-op values in mind and applying them to workers, so we can all demonstrate that we really do go further together."

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