REI Berkeley employees file petition to unionize


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Workers at REI’s Berkeley, California store seek to unionize, just four months after company location in Manhattan, NY passed a vote do the same in March.

A petition seeking to organize a vote to unionize was filed on June 21 with the National Labor Relations Board by United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 5 in Hayward, Calif., on behalf of an organizing committee of REI Berkeley employees . A few days earlier, the organizing committee had sent a letter to REI management asking that REI voluntarily recognize the committee’s efforts to obtain union representation. The letter, signed by 12 employees, said the organizing effort had the support of a “strong majority” of Berkeley employees.

“We want to participate in the development of agreements that have an impact on all aspects of our professional life,” the letter states. “We don’t just want to be heard, we want to be active stewards of our store by your side.” The letter suggests that successful organizing would be consistent with REI’s progressive corporate culture.

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The petition is due for review by the NLRB in July. If approved, REI Berkeley employees — about 120 of them — could vote to unionize or not. If the vote is successful, Berkeley would be the second REI store to unionize, after the company’s Manhattan store, which passed an 88-14 vote in March in favor of unionization.

Employees contacted by OBJ at the REI store in Berkeley declined to comment and referred questions to REI.

REI responded to OBJ’s request for comment in an email, stating, “We were advised this week by the National Labor Relations Board that the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5 has filed a petition for a election at our store in Berkeley, California, indicating that some employees there are interested in organizing. We will fully support the petition process at Berkeley, including the right of every employee to vote for or against union representation. Our responsibility as leaders is to put employees at the center of everything we do, and we strive to co-create and maintain a top-notch experience for our hourly employees. »

REI has a page on his site explaining what a union can and cannot do, and unions have been discussed in REI Conversations, the company’s moderated customer forum, previously. Manhattan unionization was also discussed in an interview published with REI CEO Eric Artz on Notre.REI.com. “I want to be very clear on one thing,” Artz said in this interview. “We fully support the rights of our employees to speak and act for what they believe and that includes the right of our team in SoHo to explore, sue and ultimately vote on the issue of unionization. It is their decision to make and we will respect their right in this process… My father was a teacher in a teachers union and led the union when I was a teenager and I have known unions and other companies and sectors that I served. So when people ask why we don’t support unions, my answer is simple. We do not oppose unions. It’s that we don’t believe, I don’t believe, that bringing in a union is the right thing for REI. And that’s the main reason why we don’t think bringing in a union is the right thing for our employees.

The Berkeley location opened in 1975 – the first REI store to open outside Washington State.