Workers at REI, a leading outdoor retailer in the United States, showed the power of collective action last week in their Cleveland, Ohio, store.
Organizing with UNI Global Union affiliate RWDSU, workers went on strike Friday, 3 February, to demand a fair union election in the face of mounting union busting.
Leading up to the strike, the RWDSU filed charges with the U.S. labour department alleging the company was illegally union busting and surveilling workers.
Mere hours after workers walked off the job, REI management changed its position. Now all eligible workers will be able to vote for a union on 3 March.
“We are basically making demands that we have a liveable wage, that we are able to live our lives outdoors, like REI’s mission statement includes,” said John Ginter, a sales associate at the Cleveland-area store told local radio. “So having a better work life balance, being able to care for ourselves and to increase benefits for employees across the spectrum, whether or not they are part time, full time, whatever that situation would be.”
The Ohio store would be the third location of the REI chain to organize.
“It is exciting to see organizing spread to places and employers that had no unions just a few months ago, and these REI workers are changing their industry one store at a time,” said Mathias Bolton, Head of UNI’s commerce sector. “We will stand with workers there—and throughout our sector—to ensure that they are able to form a union without fear and intimidation.”