An REI store in Berkeley, Calif. on Thursday officially voted to unionize, officially making it the second organized REI store in the U.S.
The initial vote tally in the election, conducted via the National Labor Relations Board election, was 56 votes in favor of representation via the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5 union and 38 votes against. REI workers in a New York City’s Soho’s neighborhood became the first organized REI store to unionize after a vote in March.
“Over the past few weeks, employees at our Berkeley, California store participated in a mail-in ballot election to determine whether they would be represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5,” REI Co-op said in a statement. “As we have said throughout this process, 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.”
The Berkeley store filed a request with the National Labor Relations Board to hold a union election in March.
“We could not be more excited to have the opportunity to build a better REI for ALL of us and negotiate our union contract,” the store’s union said in a post on its Twitter account. This is only the beginning. The real way forward is with a union!”
REI has previously stated that it would support the petition process in the Berkeley store and at other REI stores seeking representation.
The news marks the latest development in a wave of unionization efforts across retail in recent months. Since December, more than 200 Starbucks stores have voted to unionize. Employees at an Amazon warehouse on New York’s Staten Island officially voted to form the first Amazon union in April. In May, employees at a Christiansburg, Va. Target store filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board, largely stemming from the desire to have veteran employees receive an additional $2 of pay per hour.
And in June, employees at an Apple store in Baltimore Md. store voted to unionize, becoming the first Apple store to do so.
These organizing efforts come on the heels of a pandemic that has tested the limits of many once-deemed “essential” retail employees. In many cases, retail unions are highlighting the need for support in customer-facing roles as well as additional pay and benefits. In general, people are more receptive to the movement. A Gallup poll from September 2021 showed that 68% of Americans approve of them, the highest rating since 1965.