REI Union Cleveland Workers Walk Out in Unfair Labor Practice Strike

Photo: RWDSU, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union

(CLEVELAND, OH) – Today, at 9:45 AM ET, workers at the Beachwood, Ohio, REI store in a Cleveland suburb walked out on an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) strike as their NLRB hearing got underway. In unilateral solidarity, workers left their shifts demanding the right to vote in a free and fair NLRB election and for the company to stop its union-busting. 

As background, please see Monday's statement from the Union, Tuesday's media briefing recording with workers, and Thursday's ULP filing and letter from U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown

The worker-led unionization effort in the Beachwood suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, has been underway for over a year. Still, workers cite the overwhelming win at REI, Inc. in SoHo, New York, as having put the “battery in our backs” to push to a majority of card signers and file for election. On January 11, 2023, a delegation of REI, Inc. workers at the Ohio store formally filed for a union election with Region 8 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) seeking representation with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). This came on the heels of two stores winning their union elections in both the flagship SoHo, New York, and in Berkeley, California stores. Despite REI, Inc.'s every effort to union bust coast-to-coast, workers filed for a union election in Ohio again. 

Workers at the Ohio store hoped they wouldn't need to endure the same union-busting campaign their colleagues on the coasts did, but union-busting has already begun at the store, with workers being asked to join meetings as much as twice a day. 

Last week, REI, Inc. refused to reach a Stipulated Agreement with the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) to move ahead with a union election at the Ohio store. The Cleveland office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) commenced a hearing today, Friday, February 3, 2023. The hearing process, which can be a lengthy distraction and delay, stifling workers' voices, is something workers did not have to endure during the prior two REI, Inc. union elections. The outcome, which may not come for weeks, delaying the election, will determine if, when, and how workers can proceed. 

The Union seeks to represent all non-supervisory employees at the store, a presumptively appropriate bargaining unit. But REI has put forth meritless assertions to delay the election. First, REI claims that sales leads are supervisors under the law and therefore cannot unionize; second, that workers in the shop section of the store do not share a community of interest with the store’s retail workers; and third, that certain workers are “casual” employees and shouldn’t vote. 

RWDSU vehemently disagrees with REI’s objections. It is especially galling because, as the Company unnecessarily fights RWDSU in Ohio, it is currently bargaining contracts with workers holding these same classifications at the SoHo, New York, and Berkley, California stores. REI’s hypocrisy is union-busting plain and simple and is a meek attempt to exclude more than half of the proposed bargaining unit from being eligible to vote.

REI also seeks to dismiss the Union’s election petition outright, citing an NLRB case from 1962 involving a union election in the South where the employer made inflammatory racial appeals against unionization. How this relates to the Union’s petition in Ohio in 2023 is anyone’s guess. Still, RWDSU is incensed that REI would make such an implication in its NLRB filing and minimize the racial and labor struggles in the South during that period.

When successful, the RWDSU will represent approximately 55 current NLRA-eligible workers in the Beachwood, Ohio, store in contract negotiations. The store currently operates at a 60% staffing level of its full capacity, potentially increasing that number to over 70. The Union seeks to represent all non-supervisory employees at the store, which includes all full- and part-time sales specialists, technical specialists, visual presentation specialists, shipping and receiving specialists, certified technicians and mechanics, operations leads, sales leads, and shipping and receiving leads.

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