Unions File Labor Complaint Following REI Layoffs
REI workers, represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW)/Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), held coordinated actions across eight states this past weekend in response to the retailer’s decision to unilaterally restructure jobs and working conditions in all of its stores. REI failed to meet its legal responsibility to negotiate with the unions before implementing these changes, and as a result, unionized workers also filed a national Unfair Labor Practice charge today with the National Labor Relations Board. The company’s unilateral workplace changes have led to mass layoffs, reduced hours, demotions, and other challenges for REI workers in its stores, affecting both unionized and non-unionized workers.
Total Retail's Take: The unions are arguing on behalf of workers that REI's unique business structure, operating as a co-op that is owned by members, many of whom are employees, necessitated that it come to the bargaining table with employees before making significant changes to their work schedules and roles/titles, some of which led to layoffs. The discord between REI corporate and store employees has been brewing for some time, with the two groups at odds over store workers joining national labor unions. This is quite a turn for REI, which had earned a reputation as a progressive employer, exemplified by its decision to close stores on Black Friday to allow its employees to spend time outdoors on one of the busiest in-store shopping days of the year. There's still more to come in this matter, but for now REI needs to begin mending relationships with its in-store employees before the critical Q4 holiday shopping season kicks into full gear.