In another significant union vote, workers at the REI store in New York’s Manhattan SoHo district have voted overwhelmingly to unionize. On March 2, they voted 88-14 to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union after an effort lasting nearly two-years. During these two years, the store engaged in a ceaseless anti-union effort to intimidate its employees to reject the union.
The store employed all the usual tactics – from one-on-one “meetings” where managers used pressure on individual workers, to flooding employee rest and break rooms with propaganda and falsehoods about unions.
Resentment among workers had been building at the REI store against inadequate safety measures, callous scheduling policies, overwork and underpayment.
Significantly, the REI workers pointed to the inspiration they received from Amazon and Starbucks workers who were organizing in facilities around the country. “Every new Starbucks that organizes — I also know organizers from RWDSU that have been in Bessemer [Alabama] helping to organize Amazon —all those stories are just incredibly inspiring,” said one. “I think organized labor is the future.” Another added. “Just seeing other groups stand up to Amazon, which is a behemoth, stand up to Starbucks which is everywhere, ingrained in every single neighborhood, it was really comforting. I didn’t feel alone. Also, you know, it was an inspiration, because these are people in my same situation, trying their best to stand up for themselves and their co-workers. I feel like I look to these drives, whether they’ve won their votes or not, for constant inspiration.”
Contract talks with REI management are expected to begin within the next three months.