Aug 26, 2022
California retail workers vote for union at second REI store
Aug 26, 2022
Employees at a Recreational Equipment Inc (REI) store in Berkeley, California, on Thursday voted to form a union, the outdoor equipment and apparel retailer's second location to do so in a time when more service workers have been choosing to organize.
Full-time and part-time employees at the outdoor retailer secured a majority in a mail-in ballot election by voting 56 to 38 in support of joining United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5, a 30,000-member labor union, according to a tally on Thursday by the National Labor Relations Board.
The organizing campaign at REI in Berkeley unfolded amid broader efforts nationwide by service workers at Starbucks, Amazon and Chipotle to change their workplace environments through unions.
"This is a critically important victory. The union campaign at REI, like that at Starbucks, has the potential to spread nationwide," said John Logan, a San Francisco State University professor who studies anti-union actions.
REI Berkeley workers began to organize earlier this year in search for better wages, benefits and hours in addition to looking for REI to live up to "its creed," according to the director of strategic campaigns for UFCW Local 5, Jim Araby.
"REI is supposed to be this company that cares about the environment and sustainability but the workers feel as part of any company that wants to build a sustainable model of business, workers have to be a part of that consideration," he said.
"REI believes in the right of every employee to vote for or against union representation. We fully supported the vote process in Berkeley and will continue to support our employees going forward," said privately-owned REI Co-op in a statement.
A REI store in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood in March became the first store in the company's chain to unionize.
REI has about 170 stores and 15,000 employees nationwide and is structured as a cooperative owned by customers who buy lifetime memberships.
© Thomson Reuters 2023 All rights reserved.