Things continue to heat up between REI Co-op and its employees in stores that have voted to unionize.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) announced it would be filing Unfair Labor Practice charges (ULPs) against REI, Inc. in the Cleveland (Beachwood, OH) and SoHo (Manhattan, NY) unionized stores, which comes on the heels of REI’s notification to the Union through its new legal counsel that many of its workers at the SoHo store would be receiving pay cuts in their next paycheck amid a shakeup of the company’s legal representation at the bargaining table. Read SGB Media’s coverage here. 

The RWDSU said in a release that all the charges highlight examples of REI’s continued efforts to undermine and suppress workers’ rights to bargain for a fair contract. The Union said unionized workers at REI, Inc. would continue to fight to ensure their rights are respected, and REI is held accountable for its outrageous behavior and said the allegations lodged against REI demonstrate a flagrant disregard by REI for workers’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

“We believe it is clear that REI’s behavior is in direct violation of the NLRA, and we will fight to ensure they’re held accountable for these and their numerous other abuses of this fundamental law. A company cannot hire the most notoriously anti-union law firm, fail to comply with basic federal labor law and then turn around and call themselves progressive and preach progressive values. REI must be held accountable by the labor board, and they must bargain in good faith,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the RWDSU.

The summary of ULP charges alleged by RWDSU against REI Co-op include:

  • Failure to Provide Standard Information to Prepare for Bargaining at the Cleveland (Beachwood, OH) Store: The RWDSU sent a standard information request to REI’s then-counsel on May 8, 2023, to prepare for contract negotiations for the Beachwood store. Thus far—36 days later and counting—REI has only sent a store roster and no other information. RWDSU alleges that this failure and delay violate REI’s bargaining obligation under the law.
  • Unilateral Reduction of Certain Wage Rates and Retaliation at the SoHo (Manhattan, New York) Store: RWDSU and REI agreed to provide wage rates and benefits under The Way Forward plan introduced by REI in 2022 to SoHo workers. The agreement expired June 1, 2023, and, unfortunately, REI reduced wages for SoHo workers. Before the June 1 date, however, SoHo workers engaged in protected, concerted activity to protest REI’s non-payment of Summit Pay to the SoHo workers and engaging in concerted activity on other important issues. It was REI’s prerogative to reduce workers’ pay under the agreement, and it was motivated to do so in retaliation for workers engaging in protected, concerted activity, as alleged by RWDSU.
  • Further, after the expiration of an agreement between RWDSU and REI to provide The Way Forward wage rates to SoHo workers, REI unilaterally determined the amount of the wage reduction for certain employees once the agreement expired on June 1. The law required REI to bargain with the Union over the reduced wage rate for these employees. REI failed to do so and therefore violated the law as alleged in the unfair labor practice charge.
  • Phase out of in-store order fulfillment at the SoHo (Manhattan, NY) Store: in January 2023, REI “turned off” in-store order fulfillment at the SoHo store, which the Union alleges violates the status quo. REI did so without providing advance notice to the Union and an opportunity to bargain. According to the Union, this also constitutes a diversion of bargaining unit work away from the SoHo bargaining unit without advance notice and an opportunity to bargain. The Union alleges that this also constitutes a status quo violation. By diverting bargaining unit work, the Union also alleges that this reduced hours for workers to work. Preserving bargaining unit work is of paramount importance to the Union. Finally, according to the charge, even if the law permitted REI to do this without notifying the Union, REI failed to engage in bargaining over the effects of this change.

The RWDSU said in the release that the National Labor Relations Board regional offices are investigating 26 unfair labor practice charges filed against REI, and the new filings would be in addition to the currently pending cases, including 10 cases at the Eugene, OR store and six at the Berkeley, CA store.

Photo courtesy REI Union