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REI's Chicago store employees vote to unionize

Published May 5, 2023

CHICAGO (BRAIN) — The REI Co-op store employees here voted Thursday night to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). It's the fourth REI location to join the union.

According to the RWDSU, 84% voted to unionize.

"I am beyond excited at the results of the vote to officially make REI Chicago a union store," said Andrew Loveland, REI Chicago Organizing Committee and Retail Specialist member.

"I have never been more proud to work for REI and am inspired by the passion and courage of my fellow green vests who have taken part in any of this."

The vote was conducted by an in-person secret ballot at the store and overseen by the Chicago office of the National Labor Relations Board. The RWDSU will represent about 60 workers in contract negotiations, which will commence this year.

The workers in the proposed bargaining unit encompass all non-supervisory employees at the store, including all full- and part-time sales, technical, visual presentation, shipping and receiving, certified technicians and mechanics, operations leads, sales leads, and shipping and receiving leads.

Loveland said he is eager to begin bargaining for more consistent hours and schedules and to "hold REI accountable for the many promises and initiatives they have failed to uphold over the years."

Workers at the REI location in Beachwood, Ohio, near Cleveland, voted to join RWDSU in March. It became the third REI store to unionize, following stores in California and New York.

"This is a win for the people whom REI has unfairly fired, denied transfers and promotions to, denied the opportunity to flourish in the proper department, and so many other grievances," said Sarah Diefenbach of the REI Chicago Organizing Committee and visual sales lead. "We the workers of REI Chicago in the neighborhood of Lincoln Park all deserve to be paid a living wage with consistent predictable hours for the expert advice we provide to the community and have a say in the day-to-day running of our store. We want the co-op to be successful, and we want to truly share in that success."

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