REI Workers in North Carolina Go on Strike, Protest Unfair Labor Practices

REI workers at a store in Durham, N.C. are going on strike to protest management’s response to their unionization efforts.

Employees at the store filed a petition for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on April 13 to be represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) Local 1208. They said they are striking because of an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge they filed against management, citing “illegal discipline of workers who are involved in the union organization efforts,” a release said. According to a release, REI put an active union organizer on “‘administrative leave’ without clear information about his status.” The employees are also calling on management to “cease manipulating the election process.”

“We’re organizing this union because we love REI and want to make it a better workplace, one that lives up to its own values, and protects all of us at work,” said Alice Bennett, an REI Durham organizing committee member in a statement. “Now, our coworkers are facing retaliation and unlawful discipline just because they want to have a voice at REI. We’re calling on REI Co-Op to stop these unfair labor practices, sign the stipulated agreement, and let all of us at REI Durham vote.”

An REI spokesperson confirmed to FN that an employee is out on “administrative leave” unrelated to union activity and is currently “pending an investigation.”

“A group of scheduled employees chose to walk out of their shift this morning,” the spokesperson said. “Per their social media posts, they are calling the activity a strike.”

The Durham workers’ filing for election came during a broad surge in union activity in various REI stores across the country. Last month, stores in Chicago, Ill., Eugene, Ore. and Boston Mass. filed petitions for a union vote. And in March, employees at an REI store in Cleveland voted 27-12 in favor of unionizing their store, becoming the third REI location to do so.

Two other REI stores — one in Berkeley, Calif and one in New York City’s Soho neighborhood — voted to unionize their stores in 2022.

The Durham workers said their union is pushing for higher wages, scheduling improvements, more workplace safety and job security adjustments.

“We will fully support the petition process and vote — including the right of every employee to vote for or against union representation,” REI said in a statement regarding the recent wave of union pushes.

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