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Second REI Store Unionizes

REI’s store in Berkeley, Calif. is the now the outdoor retailer’s second national location to unionize.

Full- and part-time workers at the Bay Area REI on Thursday voted in favor of joining the 30,000-member United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5 Union (UFCW Local 5), according to the National Labor Relations Board. The mail-in ballot election saw 56 store associates, managers, operational specialists, technicians and others vote for union representation, while 38 voted against.

UFCW Local 5 director Jim Araby told local news outlet Fox KTVU that the decision will result in about 120 more members joining the union. With 10 other REI locations clustered around San Francisco, Araby said he’s already seen “an uptick in organizing” across the region.

“Companies were raking in the profits and workers were putting their lives literally at risk,” he told KTVU. “And even coming out of the pandemic, they felt under-appreciated.” The outlet said pro-union workers primarily wanted to negotiate higher compensation.

An REI Union video detailed Berkeley workers’ frustrations such as variable, non-standardized compensation and staffing shortages that mean part-timers work up to 40 hours per week without health benefits or paid time off.

“REI workers in Berkeley have shown for a second time that REI workers are ready to stand shoulder-to-shoulder and fight for the future they deserve,” REI Union international vice president Dave Young said in a statement Thursday. “Their victory, just like REI SoHo’s victory in New York, will serve as an inspiration for their colleagues across the country.”

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Workers at the company’s Manhattan store in March voted to become a part of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which now represents about 116 of the location’s employees. At the time, REI was accused of using dissuasion tactics to deter workers from organizing, with CEO Eric Artz facing public criticism after a leaked email warned that unionizing would not help the co-op community achieve its “shared mission and purpose.”

“We fully supported the vote process in Berkeley and will continue to support our employees going forward,” REI told Sourcing Journal following Thursday’s vote. “As we have said throughout this process, REI believes in the right of every employee to vote for or against union representation.”