A Cleveland REI Store Becomes the Third Location to Unionize

Employees at an REI store in Cleveland on Friday voted 27-12 in favor of unionizing their store, becoming the third location to do so.

The employees, which will be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), initially filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in January. With this vote, the Cleveland store joins two other REI stores — one in Berkeley, Calif. and one in New York City’s Soho neighborhood — who voted to unionize their stores in 2022.

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“REI believes in the right of every eligible employee to vote for or against union representation,” the company said in a statement. “We fully supported our Cleveland employees through the vote process and we will continue to support our employees going forward as they begin to navigate the collective bargaining process.”

RWDSU said in a statement that the REI Cleveland employees “endured an exceptionally harsh union busting campaign” from management, which included alleged attempts to delay voting, conducting intimidating meetings with management and unlawfully surveilling workers.

“When their employer tried to aggressively delay their election, workers walked out, and went on strike, until the employer backed-off,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of RWDSU. “They have stuck together through a horrendous, relentless, and unlawful union-busting campaign and have come out the other side stronger. REI Cleveland workers will now bring their strength to the bargaining table, and we know that together they will win a strong contract.”

The Cleveland employees said previously that they were galvanized by the first union win for REI workers in a New York City store last year. In March of 2022, 86% of workers at the REI Co-Op in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood voted to join RWDSU in a vote conducted by the NLRB. In August, an REI store in Berkeley, Calif. voted to unionize, making it the second organized REI store in the U.S.

Other retail workers across Starbucks, Target and Amazon warehouses have also joined the wave of unionization efforts across retail in the last year. In April, employees at an Amazon warehouse on New York’s Staten Island officially formed a union, becoming the first Amazon group to do so.

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