REI Cleveland, Ohio Workers File For Union Election

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 11, 2023 Contact: Chelsea Connor | [email protected] | 347-866-6259 REI CLEVELAND, OHIO WORKERS FILE FOR UNION ELECTION (CLEVELAND, OH) – Today, a delegation of REI, Inc. workers at the Cleveland, Ohio store formally filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) seeking representation with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). This comes on the heels of two stores winning their union elections in both the flagship SoHo, New York store and in Berkeley, California. Despite REI, Inc.'s every effort to union bust coast-to-coast, workers have yet again filed for a union election.  This filing came just hours after REI, Inc. management refused to immediately voluntarily recognize the union. In the Wednesday morning huddle, a delegation of workers shared with management that a majority of workers had signed RWDSU authorization cards. With a majority of workers in favor of forming a union, workers asked REI, Inc. to voluntarily recognize the union so that contract negotiations could commence swiftly around a host of issues workers are facing at the sporting goods store, which is already at the table with workers at the SoHo, New York and Berkeley, California stores.  “100 years ago, it was coal miners; 70 years ago, it was auto workers; today, it's retail. The time for a union in every American workplace is now! We, the workers of REI Cleveland, are the ones customers come to when seeking firsthand knowledge and experience; we are the ones whose expertise drives the company's brick and mortar retail business, and it's time we the workers had a seat at the table. We weathered the pandemic and kept the company afloat, we stretched ourselves thin helping the company achieve its highest profit margin ever, and now we're being told that there aren't enough hours to go around due to corporate overbuying and recession fears. Enough. The American worker deserves better,” said Dave Hein (He/Him), Member of the REI Cleveland Organizing Committee and Bike Services and Ski Mechanic at REI, Inc. “It’s time that REI practices its values. At REI, we live by the phrase ‘a life outdoors is a life well lived’. Yet employees are not paid fair wages and have to deal with irregular scheduling preventing us from enjoying the great outdoors. With a Union, the green vests at REI Cleveland will have an opportunity to make our voices heard and make the store a better place for workers and the community we serve,” said Cloud Schneider (They/Them), Member of the REI Cleveland Organizing Committee and Visual Sales Lead at REI, Inc. The worker-led unionization effort in Cleveland, Ohio has been underway for well over a year, but 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 March 2, 2022 by an overwhelming majority vote of 86 percent, workers at the REI Co-Op in Manhattan, New York voted to join the RWDSU, making REI, Inc. SoHo, the first unionized REI, Inc. store in the nation. Despite enduring a union busting campaign that included captive audience meetings, a halt on promotional opportunities, and even a 25-minute union busting podcast, workers stood together to make REI Inc. the inclusive, progressive workplace it claims to be through their union. Workers at the Cleveland, Ohio store hope they won’t need to endure the same, and that their election date is set swiftly. When successful, the RWDSU will represent approximately 55 current NLRA eligible workers in the Cleveland, Ohio outdoor sports equipment company in contract negotiations. The store currently operates at a 60% staffing level of its full capacity, potentially increasing that number to over 70. The workers in the proposed bargaining unit include all full- and part-time sales specialists, technical specialists, visual presentation specialists, shipping and receiving specialists, certified technicians, operations leads, sales leads, and shipping and receiving leads. Pending the parties’ ability to come to a stipulated agreement swiftly and without the need for a hearing, the NLRB could set this election for as early as next month. More information about an election date and procedure will be available via the NLRB.  # # # The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) represents 100,000 members throughout the United States, including 45,000 in New York State. The RWDSU is affiliated with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW). For more information, please visit our website at, Facebook:/RWDSU.UFCW Twitter:@RWDSU.  

REI Union Cleveland Recognition Demand Letter

We, the green vests of REI Cleveland, ask REI Coop to voluntarily recognize our Union and begin bargaining a Collective Agreement in good faith. If REI refuses, we will file for an election with the NLRB. We are organizing a union with RWDSU because we believe it is the most meaningful and effective way to ensure all voices are heard, and all employees supported. Organizing efforts at REI Cleveland began out of concern for our own health and safety during the earlier days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when REI initiated drastic new guidelines without any input from green vests in the stores. Masking guidelines were effectively eliminated as were other safety measures without our knowledge. As this pandemic has continued to teach us, our safety concerns must include concerns for the health and safety of our friends and family members that we must care for.  While the roots of this effort were born from these drastic changes that excluded our input, we have heard the concerns of our peers and it is clear that there is a need for systemic change. The following timely priorities are not exhaustive, all inclusive, or permanent: Staff and management are mostly homogenous at REI Cleveland which does not represent the communities in which we live or the diversity that surrounds us. REI continues to name Racial Equity Diversity and Inclusion (REDI) and racial justice as guiding principles, yet fails to support the recruitment and retention of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), or their growth at our store. We have lost peers and failed to recruit new green vests due to disappointing pay and poor scheduling. During the busiest season for retail, November and December, we had only 55 workers employed at our store, leaving us understaffed by over 1/3rd. With management giving no guarantee of hours, we were all scheduled at the bare minimum. Many of us green vests at the REI Cleveland location are working under 20 hours a week despite having provided REI with open availability. We have consistently been denied cross-training, which would help workers to fill in across departments when we’re understaffed.  Green vests working in frontline bear the brunt of customer frustration from a lack of workers to assist them on the floor. Overall, this chronic understaffing creates a less productive and more chaotic store environment for workers and customers alike. We were told that REI’s projected unprofitability was the reason for the reduction in hours which belies their rhetoric about placing employees first and underscores why it’s important that employees be at the table when business decisions are made. Until the recent “Way Forward” initiative was introduced, REI did not offer part-time employees health coverage until they had been on staff for 1 year, and only if they averaged 20 hours per week.  The new health insurance option now offered to all employees who are under the 20 hours/week threshold is not as robust as the full-time health plan. But since REI gives no guarantee for hours, there is no clear  path to becoming a full-time status staff person in order to receive those benefits. It is unclear what metric is used to evaluate our work performance. Management seems to rely heavily on membership conversions, but workers in back-of-house positions don’t have an equal opportunity to convert customers to members as staff on the sales floor. We strongly believe that all workers at REI Cleveland deserve not only a living wage, but a wage that recognizes and values the level of technical expertise green vests are expected to have. On top of the usual duties of a retail employee, green vests need to be able to offer members and customers gea complete  outfitting for their upcoming excursions, complete a pack fit, make gear suggestions, recommendations of outdoor locations, provide detailed specific product knowledge, and the ability to troubleshoot gear all while ensuring helping the the customer to be safe and  comfortable during their trip. When workers began organizing in February 2022 and brought a letter raising our concerns to management, we all received raises bringing us to $15/hr - but this was at the same time that the Co-oOp slashed payroll budgets, leading to reduced hours and loss of income. Recently, as a result of REI workers organizing in the SoHo flagship location, REI unveiled "The Way Forward," enacting pay raises bringing us to $16.65/hr. The initiative also promised that pay raises would be discussed quarterly, but so far this has not happened in our store. Around the same time that REI touted its “The Way Forward” benefits, our bonuses were cut, apparently due to revenue shortfalls. Despite the fact that REI Cleveland outperformed our revised revenue goal, we’ve heard no promise that our full bonuses would be reinstated.  Much of what we described points to a lack of transparency since opening in 2018. We are looking for more clearly defined systems and expectations within performance reviews, health and safety protocols, and accountability for our peers and managers. We deserve to be informed about how decisions affecting our work and our livelihoods are made, and believe that our voices should be heard, recognized and valued. Green vests are facing ongoing issues in the store, such as our recurring plumbing problem at the REI Cleveland location, without any clear path to solving them. With a union, we can sit down with management and address these issues head-on.  We love what we do. We love working with the members and customers who walk into REI Cleveland every day. With consistency in pay and benefits and a union voice, we’ll be able to better support our members and customers. REI believes that “A Life Outdoors is a Life Well Lived” and as green vests in REI Cleveland, we believe it’s made better with a union. Unionizing is a part of a healthy lifestyle. We at REI Cleveland ask REI to courageously embrace change, and voluntarily recognize our efforts to form a union at REI store #168 when we file with the National Labor Relations Board. We also call on REI to cease and desist from union busting techniques. We reject the now-defunct website used to spread lies to green vests at SoHo and Berkeley, and the intimidation tactics deployed by management at REI Cleveland when we initially raised our concerns last year. Here at the Co-op we always come from a place of respect and we ask that you do the same. We are united and join in the words of REI Union SoHo: “We are united in change—fighting for better working conditions and a life outside!” 

Michigan Pickle Producers Relish New Contract Improvements

If you’ve enjoyed Vlasic products lately like pickles, relish, and pickle spears or chips, there’s a good chance they were produced by RWDSU Local 87 members in Imlay City, Michigan. In December, the Vlasic/Conagra workers ratified a new four-year agreement that significantly increases pay. All regular full-time employees with receive up to 25 percent wage increases. The next three years of the contract, workers will receive between 50 and 75 cents per hour increases. The Negotiating Committee also fought hard to protect the health care plan benefits, and also won reduced costs for the Family Plan. There are 400 year-round workers employed at Vlasic on a year-round basis, and the number swells to over 500 during the April-December season. Serving on the Negotiating Committee were: Mitch Pressel, Mindy Salcedo, RWDSU Rep. Joe Silva, Local 87 President Craig Welch, RWDSU Rep. Fred Jimenez, Nina Platz and Warren Tripp. Negotiating Committee members celebrate the new Vlasic Pickle contract. (l to r) Mitch Pressel, Mindy Salcedo, RWDSU Rep. Joe Silva, Local 87 President Craig Welch, RWDSU Rep. Fred Jimenez. Not present for photo were Nina Platz and Warren Tripp.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 25, 2022  Contact: Chelsea Connor | [email protected] | 347-866-6259 STATEMENT ON THE PASSAGE OF THE WAREHOUSE WORKER PROTECTION ACT   (NEW YORK, NY) – Unsafe work speeds, unreasonable work quotas, dangerous work, and insufficient breaks all contribute to the skyrocketing rate of injuries and sickness in the warehousing industry, which is why the RWDSU pushed for the introduction of the Warehouse Worker Protection Act (WWPA – A10020/S8922) this year. Today, the critically needed WWPA was signed into law by Governor Kathy Hochul. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), issued the following statement:  “Regulations protecting workers in the warehousing industry have lagged far behind its rapid growth until today. The RWDSU has long prioritized the challenge of protecting warehouse workers from stress induced injuries and illness from limitless quotas and it’s why we pushed for the introduction of the Warehouse Worker Protection Act (WWPA – A10020/S8922) this year. “Warehouse facilities are popping up across New York at staggering numbers; Amazon alone has opened more than 70 facilities in the state and over half of those facilities have been built since January 2021. At the same time, we have seen increased stress, pain, and resulting safety issues for warehouse workers, due to increased quotas and speeds. Due to extreme, unknown and unreasonable work quotas warehouse workers have suffered heart attacks, strokes, repetitive motion injuries, and irreparable life-long joint and back pain. At Amazon, the injury rate is 54% higher than the average rate for the state’s warehousing industry – and even that is a staggering misrepresentation of the reality given how many injuries at Amazon go unreported.  “Today, we’ve achieved a big win for workers’ safety. Thank you to the bill sponsors New York State Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblymember Latoya Joyner for their leadership on this commonsense health and safety bill, the NYS legislature for passing this critical safety measure, and Governor Kathy Hochul for signing it into law today. The WWPA can start helping workers who need it now more than ever,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).  BACKGROUND ON (WWPA – A10020/S8922): Modeled after similar legislation signed into law in California last year, the WWPA will help protect workers from inhumane quotas – quotas that have caused workers lifelong injuries and outrageously, in some cases, their lives. The law will require that quotas, which are oftentimes completely unknown to workers, be transparent. And it will prevent workers from being disciplined if they fail to achieve these quotas due to the worker meeting basic human needs like bathroom and water breaks. Research shows that many of these injuries and illnesses are preventable and are the result of mismanagement that prioritizes speed and productivity for profits over workers’ safety. The WWPA creates important boundaries to protect warehouse industry workers from the brutal line speeds and quotas that are driving injuries and sickness at New York’s warehouses.  # # # The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) represents 100,000 members throughout the United States. The RWDSU is affiliated with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW). For more information, please visit our website at, Facebook:/RWDSU.UFCW Twitter:@RWDSU.

Amazon, recognize your workers’ humanity!

by STUART APPELBAUM President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union December 7, 2022 Amazon’s continued mistreatment of workers sparked huge protests across the globe on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, with workers and activists at 140 actions in more than 40 countries bringing attention to the company’s appalling, dehumanizing and abusive behavior.  The Make Amazon Pay campaign—an international union-led coalition of labor, progressive and activist organizations—is holding Amazon to account for treating workers as disposable commodities, for its environmental policies and for failing to pay its taxes. The campaign is leading actions such as those on Black Friday to demand Amazon raise worker pay, create safer workplaces, extend sick leave, provide job security, end union busting, respect workers’ rights and operate sustainably. The campaign is also demanding that Amazon pay back to society by paying its taxes in full and ending its abuse of tax loopholes.   Protests, demonstrations and walkouts worldwide focused on how Amazon exploits workers and hurts communities. Workers at 18 distribution centers in France and Germany went on strike. In St. Peters, Missouri, Amazon workers walked off the job at the STL8 distribution center. At the Amazon distribution center in Bessemer, Alabama, where employees have been trying to unionize with the RWDSU since 2020, workers joined community groups and other unions including striking Alabama mine workers in a show of solidarity. And in New York City, dozens of activists protested outside of Jeff Bezos’ $23 million luxury apartment, demanding the Amazon chief’s attention. Amazon workers endure unsafe work speeds, unreasonable work quotas, dangerous work and insufficient breaks, all of which contribute to the skyrocketing rate of injuries in the industry. Workers’ productivity is monitored so closely that they are afraid to take bathroom breaks. In New York, the warehouse industry has alarmingly high injury rates. Amazon workers are injured at a rate of six per 100, which is five times the average in New York. While all warehouse work is dangerous, Amazon warehouse workers are 54% more likely than others in the industry to get sick or hurt on the job. It’s a matter of decency, morality and often literally, life and death. We want Amazon to listen, and we want Amazon to change. Workers from New York to Alabama and from Leipzig to New Delhi want better pay, safer workplaces and a voice at work. Most of all, they want dignity and respect, and to be treated like humans from a company that can afford to change the way it operates. You can also read the column in New York Amsterdam News.

Valley View Manor Workers Ratify New Contract

Nursing home employees at Valley View Manor in Norwich, New York, will receive instant significant wage increases of 18 to 32 percent based upon their job classification with their new three-year contract. All employees will receive additional two percent increases in years two and three of contract, along with a ratification bonus up to $300, company match to the 401K plan for the first time, increased shift differential, and additional paid time off depending upon years of service. Reception workers have also been added to the Local 139 membership, giving them a union voice and contract for the first time. Serving on the Negotiating Committee were Roland Graham, Christina Feliciano, Crystal Sisco, and Heather Norton. L to R: Crystal Sisco, Heather Norton and Roland Graham and the rest of the negotiating committee brought in a great contract with numerous improvements.

Let’s take the stress out of holiday shopping!

by STUART APPELBAUM President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union November 17, 2022 The holiday shopping season is already underway, with sales starting earlier than ever, and shoppers are coming back to stores and are ready to hunt for values. But it’s important that shoppers and retailers recognize one of the greatest values they’ll find in these stores: the value brought by retail workers to the holiday shopping experience. Retail workers are the face of the stores they represent and they’ll help shoppers find the perfect gifts, let them know where to find the best deals, and aid with returns and exchanges. The value they provide for both retailers and shoppers should be recognized by all of us as they help make our holiday season a great one for our families.  It’s a challenging time and season for retail workers. They aren’t seeing their wages keep up with the increased cost of living amid higher grocery bills and increasing rents and utility costs. Staffing issues persist at many stores, stretching workers thin and adding to their responsibilities at the worst possible time. Supply chain issues continue to affect the availability of high-demand items, adding to customer frustration.  Big crowds, irritable customers, busy days, and the need for workers themselves to take care of their own holiday obligations can all weigh heavily on workers’ shoulders. Too many shoppers and employers don’t appreciate the pressure that retail workers are under this time of year. And, especially for retail workers in non-union stores, the stress of the holidays is stacked on top of the daily obstacles they face every day of the year: insufficient hours, insufficient wages, and unpredictable scheduling that makes it difficult to work another job, plan childcare, or attend school. Non-union retail workers may have no control over when they work, regardless of their own holiday plans, and they likely won’t be compensated fairly for working during the holidays. For these workers, it can be a struggle just to survive—to say nothing of providing their families with a joyous season. Workers are not to blame for shoppers’ frustrations and the challenges of the post-pandemic economy and supply chain, and they need support from shoppers and their employers. Stores should provide security, safety protocols and training to handle agitated shoppers this season as well as safe staffing levels to meet the longer demand period. And shoppers need to remember what this season is supposed to be all about—kindness. When we are doing our holiday shopping this season, let’s take some time to consider the stress the workers who are helping create holiday memories are under. Lend a smile, and some patience to workers and your fellow shoppers. It’s the time of year we can all give a little back and do our best to spread good will.  You can also read the column in New York Amsterdam News.


FOR RELEASE: November 15, 2022 Contact: Chelsea Connor | [email protected] | 347-866-6259   AMAZON HOLIDAY STATEMENT FROM RWDSU  (NEW YORK, NY) – As the holiday shopping season gets underway, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), issued the following statement urging Amazon to treat workers with dignity and respect – especially at this time of year: “Amazon kicked off Prime Day in early October, and has continued to turn up the pressure on workers as it gears up for the busy holiday season, which means this year’s peak period will be one of the longest and most stressful for the workforce. “Every year at this time, Amazon workers across the world are forced to work mandatory overtime at an often-unattainable pace that results in injuries. Workers at Amazon’s warehouses are pushed to the limits to meet unreasonable quotas and demands from nameless and faceless algorithms and apps on their phones.  “Amazon must be held accountable for its inhumane quotas and unsafe working conditions, which are injuring workers around the globe at an alarming rate. No worker should ever have to worry if they’ll go home injured after a shift or if the pace they’re working will have long term damaging effects to their physical and mental health.  “Amazon must recognize the health and safety needs of its employees. It needs to reduce the unbearable pace of work which has resulted in thousands of documented physical and mental injuries – a pace of work that is only exacerbated this holiday shopping season. “Most importantly, Amazon must stop union-busting. The company has continued to repress workers' voices and prevent their ability to make effective change at work – which can only happen when workers are able to join together through a union. This year, workers are standing up in the United States and across the globe to say enough is enough. Amazon cannot continue to treat workers as disposable and this Black Friday, workers will be taking action to demand that they be treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).  # # # The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) represents 100,000 members throughout the United States. The RWDSU is affiliated with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW). For more information, please visit our website at, Facebook:/RWDSU.UFCW Twitter:@RWDSU.

Holiday Shopping Statement from RWDSU

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 15, 2022 Contact: Chelsea Connor | [email protected] | 347-866-6259HOLIDAY SHOPPING STATEMENT FROM RWDSU(NEW YORK, NY) – As the holiday shopping season gets underway and in-store shopping increases, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), issued the following statement urging holiday shoppers and employers to treat retail workers with dignity and respect amid continued supply-chain issues:“As retailers start their holiday shopping sales earlier than ever this year, the stress and pressure for retail workers during the holiday season is being extended by additional weeks. At the same time, incidents of harassment, violence and hate are continuing to rise in stores – causing workers to worry about their physical safety and mental health. “The supply chain is still precarious. Retail workers bear the brunt of shoppers’ frustration. Tempers quickly rise when customers hear that coveted holiday items are stuck in transit and have been backordered for months; and especially if they’ve gone to multiple stores only to go home empty handed. “Workers are not to blame, and stores should provide security, safety protocols and training to handle irate shoppers this season as well as safe staffing levels to meet the longer demand period. And shoppers need to remember what this season is supposed to be all about – love, generosity and kindness. Shoppers need to treat workers with the dignity and respect they deserve,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). # # #The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) represents 100,000 members throughout the United States. The RWDSU is affiliated with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW). For more information, please visit our website at, Facebook:/RWDSU.UFCW Twitter:@RWDSU.

End all shapes and sizes of discrimination!

by STUART APPELBAUM President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union October 27, 2022 In the Big Apple, it’s still often legal to discriminate against people due to their weight or their height. That’s why the RWDSU, and a coalition of community and advocacy groups, is supporting an amendment to New York City’s administrative code that would ban New Yorkers from discrimination based upon height and weight. It’s an important issue; height and weight discrimination runs rampant and unchecked in many industries in New York, and it often goes hand-in-hand with racial discrimination and bias against women. Addressing height and weight discrimination with this legislation [Intro 0209-2022] is an important step toward fighting societal problems such as sexism, racism, and economic inequality.  This discrimination is prevalent in the fashion retail industry. Workers who are not protected by a union have no recourse against a boss who wants to discriminate against someone due to body size, and RWDSU representatives hear about it when they organize in these workplaces. Workers at some fast fashion stores have reported being forced to diet or risk being fired, with some even required to send full-body photos to executives for review. Workers in the industry have reported that management will only hire “skinny, white, and pretty” employees to work on their sales floors.  This bill would protect countless New Yorkers from this type of blatant, often systemic discrimination. It will help workers who can’t get a job, or who suffer from lack of promotion at work based upon not their performance, but their appearance. It will protect people who are seeking public housing or other public accommodations avoid being affected by discrimination. Businesses would still be able to receive waivers for “reasonable” exceptions or legitimate health and safety issues, creating a fairer playing field while still ensuring employers can operate appropriately and safely. Height and weight discrimination is intertwined with social injustice and racial discrimination. Studies show that people of color in the U.S.—Black and Hispanics—are more likely to be of a higher weight than white people. Black Americans are likely to be on average one inch shorter than white Americans, and Asian and Hispanic Americans average about three inches shorter in height than their Caucasian counterparts. Women in America are more likely than men to be considered obese, and studies show that women are more likely to be discriminated against than men due to their appearance.  Discrimination based upon appearance and size hits New Yorkers right in their wallets, hurts our communities, and hurts families. A study on the issue showed that larger workers earn lower wages and are more likely to be viewed negatively by hiring managers. Larger peoples’ performance is more likely to be viewed negatively by supervisors; with “weight bias” hurting workers’ overall compensation, performance evaluations, and even quality of training. As a society, and in our workplaces, discrimination due to appearance is sadly all too prevalent. Every single New Yorker deserves the right to a workplace and employment landscape free of prejudice and discrimination, and every industry in New York needs to recognize that good workers come in all shapes and sizes. Passing Intro 0209-2022 is how we can make this happen.  You can also read the column in New York Amsterdam News.