REI is facing formal pushback from unionized workers over its move in mid-October to cut 275 jobs in store operations.
On Monday, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, two unions representing REI store employees, filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, according to the unions’ press release.
REI acknowledged the action at the eight unionized stores over the weekend, but didn't address questions from Retail Dive about the unfair labor practices complaint."We were told it was in response to some recently announced structural changes to roles and titles within our stores," REI Spokesperson Natalie Stotts said by email. "We are engaged in good faith bargaining with stores that have chosen union representation and will continue to participate fully in the negotiating process."
The retailer’s Vice President of Stores, Mary-Farrell Tarbox, previously told employees in a memo that its store management and scheduling processes were outdated and needed overhauling.
But these were drastic changes and job losses that shouldn’t have been undertaken without input from workers, the unions said. Over the weekend, store employees also staged coordinated actions across eight states. In a press release, the unions said that workers handed out flyers to customers “to raise awareness of REI’s mistreatment of its workers and continued failure to meet unionized workers at the bargaining table to negotiate over these changes.”
That weekend activity and written complaint followed walkouts that forced day-long closures at the REI stores in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood on Saturday and in Maple Grove, Minnesota, on Friday. Two of the workers laid off by REI last month had worked in the Chicago store, according to an Instagram post from that union, which also posted a petition for customers to sign.
“Because workers across the country have stood together and voted to join a union, REI should, as required by law, be coming to the table to listen to and negotiate with their own employees over major changes in working conditions, including ‘restructuring plans’ that lead to mass layoffs,” the Maple Grove REI workers, who are members of UFCW Local 663, said in a statement. “Yet management continues to implement unlawful, unilateral changes. Today we say enough is enough. We will not rest until REI treats the federally-protected union bargaining process with the respect and seriousness that workers deserve.”
According to the unions’ joint press release, eight REI stores so far have unionized. In addition to the Chicago and Maple Grove locations, they include the stores in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood; Berkeley, California; Cleveland, Ohio; Boston, Massachusetts; Durham, North Carolina; and Bellingham, Washington.