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REI Is Opening Its Stores Two Hours Late on Election Day So Employees Can Vote

REI Co-op is encouraging its employees to exercise their right to vote this November by delaying the opening of its stores by two hours this election day, on Nov. 8, to give every employee paid time off for civic engagement.

As part of its Your Vote Can’t Wait campaign, the co-op has also created an election resource hub for employees and members alike at REI.com/vote. It includes a range of tools, including one that allows users to register to vote, another to check their registration status and to get personalized election reminders. Important dates this voting season are also listed, as well as information for how to get involved in the election process.

“Every election is an opportunity for each of us to engage, participate and help create the change we want to see in our world, and this year’s midterms are no exception,” Ben Steele, EVP and chief customer officer at REI Co-op, said in a statement. “No one should be forced to choose between going to work and participating in the democratic process.”

The decision comes as a direct result of feedback received in employee focus groups. “Time and again, we’ve heard that our employees expect us not just to speak out on issues facing our co-op and society, but that they are looking for ways to get involved in making this a better world for all,” Steele added.

Steele said that this is exactly why the company launched the REI Cooperative Action Network last year. According to Steele, the network is a community advocacy platform that allows people to take action on the issues they care about most.

He added that REI remains committed to broadening civic engagement and ensuring everyone’s right to participate fully in democracy. “Voting is fundamental to our society, but democracy encompasses more than casting a ballot,” Steele said. “It’s a shared belief that underpins our institutions, girds our social structures and informs how we engage with one another. A functioning democracy requires the full participation of all its citizens.”

REI rolled out a similar program for the 2020 election. In September 2020, the outdoor recreation retailer encouraged workers to use one of its “Co-op way Days” — or paid time off for community service, advocacy, civil participation and volunteer activities — on election day. The flexible scheduling option was available for associates who were unable to vote early, mail in their ballots or vote absentee, as well as those living in states that require in-person voting.

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