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A California REI Store is Looking to Unionize, Amid an Uptick in Retail Unions

Footwear News logo Footwear News 2 days ago Shoshy Ciment
amazon-retail-union © AP Photo/Jay Reeves amazon-retail-union

Another REI store has started the process of organizing a union.

A store in Berkeley, Calif. on Tuesday filed a request with the National Labor Relations Board to hold a union election. The group is looking for the company to voluntarily recognize them through the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5 union.

With this move, this location becomes the most recent REI store to embark on the unionization process. REI workers in a New York City store in early March voted to unionize, making it the first organized REI store in the U.S.

REI said in a statement that it was notified of the petition filing for election earlier this week.

“We will fully support the petition process in Berkeley, including the right of every employee to vote for or against union representation,” the company said. “Our responsibility as leaders is to put employees at the center of everything we do, and we are working to co-create — and maintain — a best-in-class experience for our hourly employees.”

A wave of unionization efforts have become common across retail in recent months. Since December, three corporate-owned Starbucks stores have unionized, with more conducting votes and expressing interest. 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 just last week, 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.

“It’s a perfect storm,” Jason Greer, a labor relations expert and consultant and former board agent with the NLRB, previously told FN in an interview, explaining how current economic and socio-economic conditions have set the stage for a widespread push for unions across retail.

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