REI workers seize their moment

By RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum Originally appeared in Amsterdam News Workers at the REI outdoor sports retail store in Soho have joined the RWDSU, becoming part of a national movement of workers standing up for themselves and demanding a voice at work. Starbucks employees, workers in the tech, new media, and video game industries, and employees at Amazon facilities—all are seizing this moment to improve their jobs and their lives through union membership. Last fall, we saw the “Striketober” wave, where more than 100,000 American workers participated in or prepared for strikes as workers’ leverage increased during the ongoing pandemic. We are seeing this increased activism because workers are demanding better, and declaring that they are worth more than corporate behemoths have been giving them. Low wages and poor treatment have spurred on the “Great Resignation,” which has caused a labor shortage as working people have stood up and said they’ve had enough. The 116 retail workers at the REI store in Soho demanded better. They knew that joining the RWDSU could help them deal with workplace issues including pay, a one-year wait for health insurance, scheduling problems, and understaffing. Like so many other working people, they stood up and demanded change at their jobs. However, like so many other working people, they faced an employer willing to do anything to stop their campaign, rather than addressing their concerns and creating a better workplace. REI touts itself as a “progressive employer” who closes its stores on Black Friday, invests in outdoors organizations, and above all, puts “purpose above profits.” However, when the workers’ started their union organizing campaign, REI, which claims to be a “different kind of company,” started behaving much like many other companies who have gone to great lengths to crush workers’ union campaigns, including behemoths such as Amazon and Wal-Mart. REI hired union-busting lawyer “consultants” to design and execute a classic union-busting campaign. They halted promotion opportunities for workers and held lengthy mandatory meetings where they spread misinformation about the union. And, in a unique, unprecedented new flourish, REI management produced a 25-minute anti-union podcast. It was all designed to intimidate and frighten workers. We saw a similar situation in New York last year, when “progressive” employer Housing Works, a nonprofit employing more than 600 new RWDSU members in NYC, engaged in the same kind of union-busting tactics. Fortunately, workers at both REI and Housing Works saw through the lies and misinformation, and with the aid of RWDSU organizers, were prepared for the union-busting onslaught. But the fact that these companies—espousing progressive values in progressive NYC—thought they could behave this way is frustrating, troubling, and outrageous. Workers in America are waking up to the fact they deserve better. And unions such as the RWDSU are fighting to help their voices be heard. But as long as employers feel comfortable lying to employees and intimidating them, it’s going to be an uphill battle for too many workers. We all need to speak out against union-busting dirty tricks, and we need to support these workers as they fight for better jobs and better lives. This is their moment, and with our help, it can grow into a flourishing movement.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 2, 2022 Contact: Chelsea Connor | [email protected] | 347-866-6259   REI SOHO WORKERS VOTE OVERWHELMINGLY TO JOIN THE RWDSU Workers Officially Form the First Union at Any REI Store (NEW YORK, NY) – Today, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), announced that by an overwhelming majority vote of 86 percent, workers at the REI Co-Op in Manhattan, New York have voted to join the RWDSU, making REI SoHo the first unionized REI 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 have stood together to make REI the inclusive, progressive workplace it claims to be through their union. "I am proud to be here in this moment with my coworkers at REI SoHo as a part of this new wave of unionization efforts that is sweeping the nation. As members of the RWDSU, we know we will be able to harness our collective strength to advocate for a more equitable, safe, and enriching work environment. A union is necessary for many of us to achieve more stability and security in our lives which could allow for us to explore and play more outside of work! As green vests, we believe ‘a life outdoors is a life well lived’ and in order for that to be viable and accessible to us, we need to be at the bargaining table alongside REI leadership to work out a collective bargaining agreement that works for us. Hence, we're hopeful that REI meets us in good faith during negotiations for our first contract, while keeping our co-op values in mind and applying them to workers, so we can all demonstrate that we really do go further...together!" said Claire Chang, Member of the REI SoHo Organizing Committee and Retail Sales Specialist-Visual at REI SoHo. “History was made today! We’re excited to welcome the workers of REI SoHo into the RWDSU, marking the first-ever unionized REI store in the whole country. These workers have vast expertise in their field and have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to serve the outdoor community. They have stuck together through a horrendous union-busting campaign and have come out the other side stronger. The workers of REI SoHo are ready to negotiate a strong contract that will allow them to uphold the co-op’s progressive values while providing the top-notch service REI customers have come to expect. With a seat at the table, workers can make working at REI safe and sustainable for years to come,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). The vote to unionize REI SoHo was conducted by an in-person vote in the REI SoHo breakroom on March 2, 2022, by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The RWDSU will represent approximately 116 workers at the outdoor sports equipment company in contract negotiations, which will commence this year. The workers in the 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. # # # 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.  

2022 Free Tax Preparation

RWDSU provides free tax preparation for low-to-moderate income individuals and families. To make an appointment, call RWDSU during office business hours, 9 AM - 5 PM at (212) 684-5300 or email [email protected] Click below to download the flyers.    

REI SoHo Workers Launch Petition Calling on REI to Stop Union Busting

Click the above photo to sign the petition! On January 21, 2022, we, the workers of the REI Union SoHo, presented to our managers all the reasons we wanted a union during our daily morning huddle. To us, a bunch of outdoor enthusiasts who love REI, we see the REI Union SoHo as a way of living up to the Co-Op’s stated core values. That same day, we also requested voluntary recognition of our union, while courteously notifying management that we planned to file an election petition with the National Labor Relations Board to be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) in matters of collective bargaining.   REI has ignored our request to voluntarily recognize our union. Instead, they’ve deployed textbook union-busting tactics, meant to intimidate and scare workers out of voting Union Yes. Since announcing our union, here’s just some of what we have endured: *Workers have been pulled into one-on-one meetings with management *Workers have been forced to attend captive audience meetings with executives brought in to convince us that a union isn’t the right fit for REI *Management has shared misinformation about unionizing, using language that is not neutral or objective *Management has posted an excessive amount of anti-union flyers around our pro-union flyers *Management has put a hold on any opportunities for promotion *Management created a Microsoft Teams channel for for staff to ask questions about the union election, but instead permitted it to be dominated by anti-union language not related to the election process *REI President and CEO, Eric Artz, participated in a one sided, 25-minute union-busting REI podcast Despite all of these scare tactics, we are more united than ever in our belief that a union is the best way forward for all of us. We, the workers of REI Union SoHo, deserve a free and fair union election. We are calling on REI to immediately halt all union-busting practices, and to remain neutral as workers vote on union representation. Sign the petition here!


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, February 22, 2022 CONTACT: Chelsea Connor | [email protected] | 347-866-6259 BESSEMER, ALABAMA AMAZON WORKERS TO FILE PRECEDENT SETTING ULP CHARGES AGAINST AMAZON FOR MISCONDUCT IN RE-RUN ELECTION ULP Charges Include a Challenge to the Legality of Captive Audience Trainings, which Carries Precedent Changing Potential Under the National Labor Relations Board’s General Counsel Memo GC 21-06 (BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA) – Today, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) will be filing Unfair Labor Practice charges (ULPs) against Amazon claiming that it has engaged in misconduct during the re-run union election in Bessemer, Alabama. This is the second set of ULP charges by the Union, showing a continuance of the company’s conduct aimed at interfering with the right of employees to organize. This rerun election is the result of the company’s objectionable conduct under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) during the first election, conduct which the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) concluded interfered with employees’ rights to a free and fair election. All the charges highlight examples of Amazon’s continued efforts to undermine and suppress workers’ right to a free and fair election. Despite the adversity, workers of the BAmazon Union continue to fight to ensure their democratic rights at work are respected and Amazon is held accountable for its outrageous behavior. Amazon’s actions, which are summarized below, violate the NLRA. SUMMARY OF ULP CHARGES: Removal of Union Literature from Breakrooms: BAmazon Union Worker Organizing Committee members have been posting pro-union literature in non-work areas on non-working time alongside anti-union postings from the company. These BAmazon Union fliers were removed by Amazon in violation of the law.  Promulgating of a New Rule: Amazon promulgated a new rule limiting workers’ access inside the facility for any time period greater than 30-minutes prior to and after their shift. This rule is not in their policy handbook and violates status-quo under the law.  Challenge Captive-Audience Meetings: Section 7 of the NLRA guarantees employees “the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection,” as well as the right “to refrain from any or all such activities.” When workers are forced to attend required meetings during work-hours to hear the company’s anti-union propaganda that violates their right “to refrain from any or all such activities.” This ULP charges that Amazon is in violation of Section 8 (a)(1) and/or 8 (a)(3) of the Act and seeks to challenge the current, yet often challenged, case-law precedent, which has for too long allowed employers to compel attendance to anti-union meetings. These aptly named “Captive-Audience” meetings are coercive and workers should have the right, as is already protected under the law in Section 8, to not engage in them. The ULP charge seeks remedy via review of this law by the newly seated NLRB.  “Removing union literature from break rooms, limiting workers’ ability to talk with each other, compelling attendance at captive audience meetings to listen to anti-union messages — all of these actions expose Amazon’s undisguised efforts to stifle workers’ voices and its contempt for their rights to join together. What’s Amazon afraid of?” said Wilma Liebman, former Member and Chairman, NLRB. “Amazon does not have the right to force employees to listen to its anti-union messages. That is not free speech, it is coercion,” said Craig Becker, General Counsel to the AFL-CIO and former Member of the NLRB.  “Our organizing committee has worked hard to post our pro-union messaging fliers next to Amazon’s anti-union ones in the facility, as is our right under the law. I personally have hung up so many fliers on my very limited break time and during unpaid time off. I’ve done it because I so strongly believe we need to bring change with a union here. Not only was it discouraging to see our hard work removed, but it concerned us who was doing it given we know it’s protected under the law. When we heard from our co-workers that management was intentionally silencing us and removing our fliers it explained where the chilling effect among our co-workers was coming from,” said Anthia Sharpe, BAmazon Union Worker Organizing Committee Member, and Amazon BHM1 Associate.  “You can see our faces on these fliers. We are the Union, and we will not stand for our messages to be ripped down. How dare they literally tear up our faces. It’s scare tactics plain and simple. I know my rights, and I know that this work is critical to ensuring we have a shot at equal time with our co-workers on why we think voting to unionize is our best chance at a better future. We will not be threatened, we will keep posting these and other fliers. Amazon is up to its same intimidation tactics, it must be stopped, and we must be permitted to have a truly free and fair election,” said Serena Wallace, BAmazon Union Worker Organizing Committee Member, and Amazon BHM1 Associate.  “Being forced to attend the captive-audience anti-union trainings was degrading. Amazon treated us like mindless robots, downloading mis-information to us. And the irony is, these meetings are the longest I’ve ever gotten to sit at work. If it's impossible to allow me adequate break and bathroom time, why is it possible, let alone mandatory, for me to sit through hours of anti-union trainings? It should be our choice if we have to sit through one-side’s arguments or not, it’s protected under the law and needs to be stopped permanently,” said Roger Wyatt, BAmazon Union Worker Organizing Committee Member, and Amazon BHM1 Associate.  “When I think about the union election I think of two sides, and that people need to hear both sides, but in a captive audience meeting people are only hearing one side. This time the meetings were the same lies that Amazon told before, but they’re still throwing it at you, throwing it at you, throwing it at you, sometimes twice a week. I went to sleep in some of the meetings, because I know what lies they were going to tell, and I'm so tired and some of the lies are just promises that they don’t keep. Too many of our co-workers voted no last time as a result of being forced to sit through hours and hours of lies in mandatory meetings, and now, like me, they're changing their minds and voting union yes. But what if we didn’t have this chance? We should have a choice whether or not to be subjected to these meetings, it’s our right under the law. If the company gets to speak, their opponent should as well,” said Steven Brogdon, BAmazon Union Worker Organizing Committee Member, and Amazon BHM1 Associate.  BACKGROUND ON THE CAPTIVE-AUDIENCE ULP CHARGE: In MEMORANDUM GC 21-06, to All NLRB Regional Directors, Officers-in-Charge, and Resident Officers, the General Counsel of the NLRB Jennifer A. Abruzzo, requests that: “Cases involving unlawful conduct committed during a union organizing drive present particular challenges with respect to remedies. It goes without saying that the “laboratory conditions” necessary for a free and fair election are often difficult to restore sufficiently in the face of unlawful firings, threats of retaliation, surveillance, and other coercive tactics designed to root out and squelch union support among employees. However, effective remedies still remain at our disposal. The following, which does not represent an exhaustive list, are remedies that Regions should seek from the Board in all appropriate cases:  Union access (e.g., requiring an employer to provide a union with employee contact information, equal time to address employees if they are convened by their employer for a “captive audience” meeting about union representation, and reasonable access to an employer’s bulletin boards and all places where notices to employees are customarily posted).” All files associated with this press release can be found here and are usable for publication.  # # # The BAmazon Union is an organizing campaign of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). For more information, please visit our website at, Twitter: @BAmazonUnion.  

Stop denying farmworkers overtime pay!

By RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum Originally appeared in Amsterdam News A business’s viability must not depend on the legally allowed exploitation of people which had originally been based on the color of their skin. That is morally indefensible. This is why New York needs to correct the glaring injustice in New York’s agriculture industry where farmworkers are denied overtime pay after 40 hours. Unlike most workers in the Empire State—and the rest of the country—New York’s farmworkers are currently denied overtime pay by New York law until they’ve worked 60 hours a week. This is a relic of Jim Crow-era labor laws that have historically treated farmworkers—the backbone of New York’s agriculture industry—as second-class workers. But with the proper action, that could soon change. As directed by the historic Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act (which in 2019 for the first time gave the state’s farmworkers the right to organize into unions) the New York Department of Labor has convened a wage board to hold hearings and consider changing the state’s regulations to reduce the 60-hour overtime threshold for farmworkers. The wage board needs to recognize that farmworkers—who have proven to be truly essential workers during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic—deserve overtime after 40 hours, which has been long established for almost every other worker in this country. Just like all businesses, farms have financial concerns. But the industry cannot use these concerns to justify laws rooted in the darkest point of our history to exploit predominantly Black, Brown and immigrant workers. There is virtually no evidence to support industry claims that the difference between success or failure at New York’s farms depends upon the unjust 60-hour overtime pay threshold. Even some in the agriculture business agree, including David Breeden from Sheldrake Vineyards in the Finger Lakes region. “You know what’s expensive for the coal industry, not having child labor, but we got past that,” Breeden said during one of the hearings. Cleary, the farm industry will survive paying its workers fair overtime. The data in the nation’s largest farm state, California, shows that their 40-hour overtime pay threshold has not corresponded with any negative impacts or shocks to the California farm economy or labor market. Farms in Washington state, where 40-hour overtime has also been implemented, are continuing to thrive. Last year, the RWDSU helped farmworkers at Pindar Vineyard on Long Island become the first to win union membership. These essential working men and women are predominantly full-time New Yorkers. They have families here that they care for and they have family back home whom they also support. They want a better future for their children and work to provide a safe home for them. They take pride in their work, and they want and deserve dignity at work. This dignity can only be fully realized when these workers—whom New Yorkers depend upon every day—are treated fairly and enjoy the same rights as all other working New Yorkers. The wage board must implement a 40-hour overtime threshold for New York’s farmworkers, recognizing their contributions, and moving toward correcting the injustices they’ve suffered for decades.  

Unionizing REI Workers Want Their ‘Progressive’ Employer to Pay a Living Wage

Last Friday, 116 employees at the Soho store in Manhattan filed for a union election with the Retail Warehouse and Department Store Union, the first of the retailer’s 15,000 employees nationwide to seek to form a union. REI has long cultivated an image as one of the nation’s most progressive retailers, shutting down stores on Black Friday for the past seven years and offering workers annual incentives that kick in when stores hits sales targets.  But REI workers in Soho have many concerns that reflect the general precarity of working a non-union job in the retail industry. In particular, they want full-time status and benefits, COVID-19 protections, and guaranteed hours after the holiday season. Denend told Motherboard that despite working 40 hours a week, she and many of her coworkers are classified as part-time, and will not receive the healthcare benefits that come with full-time status until they’ve worked at the company for a year. She says workers at her store are frequently told “we don’t know” when they ask about how they can be converted to full-time status sooner. “There’s a lot of accountability and transparency issues,” she said. New hires at the Manhattan store start at roughly $18.90 an hour. MIT’s living wage calculator says a living wage in New York City is $21.77 an hour for someone without children. Read more about it at VICE


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 24, 2022 Contact: Chelsea Connor | [email protected] | 347-866-6259 OGDENSBURG, NY NATIVE ELECTED TO UNION’S SECOND HIGHEST POSITION Robert Layng, Jr. Elected Secretary-Treasurer of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (NEW YORK, NY) – On Tuesday, January 18, 2022, Robert Layng, Jr., was elected Secretary-Treasurer of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). The RWDSU represents approximately 45,000 workers in New York State and 100,000 across the country in a wide range of industries including workers in retail, grocery, pharmacy, food service, food processing, cannabis, warehousing, nursing homes, non-profits and agriculture – representing New York’s first ever unionized farmworkers. “I could not be more honored and humbled to have been elected to fill the role of Secretary-Treasurer of the RWDSU. I want to thank RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum for his trust and nomination, my parents for the work ethic they instilled in me and my entire family for their support. RWDSU members are facing some of the most extraordinary challenges they’ve ever seen as many continue to fulfill essential and frontline positions in the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever our union is supporting and ensuring workers have the critical support they need both at work and at home. I am proud of the tireless work of the RWDSU and the example Jack Wurm Jr. set, and I look forward to continue to propel the worker-driven mission of the RWDSU,” said Robert Layng, Jr., Secretary-Treasurer of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).  “I am excited about Bob Layng becoming the RWDSU’s next secretary-treasurer. He is an extraordinary individual with great talent, who cares deeply about people. He has played an important role in the work of the union throughout the years; and now in his new position he will be able to make even more of a difference in the lives of working people,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).  Robert Layng, Jr. began his career with the RWDSU as an intern in 1996 and has held numerous positions within the union including Operations Manager, Comptroller and most recently Executive Assistant to the President. Layng was elected by the Union’s Executive Board to fill the remainder of the term vacated by retiring RWDSU Secretary-Treasurer Jack Wurm, Jr. Layng, formerly of Ogdensburg, New York is the son of Robert Layng and the late Davalene Layng and has been married for over 30 years to his wife Lenore and together they have a 21-year-old son Miles. Layng is a 1985 graduate of Ogdensburg Free Academy and a 1997 graduate of SUNY Old Westbury.  # # # 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.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 11, 2022 Contact: Chelsea Connor | [email protected] | 347-866-6259 NLRB DIRECTS MAIL-IN BALLOT ELECTION AT AMAZON IN BESSEMER, ALABAMA (BESSEMER, AL) – Today, the Director of Region 10 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued the Notice of Election, outlining the terms of the new union election for workers at Amazon in Bessemer, Alabama. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) issued the following statement:  “Amazon’s misconduct during the first union election so tainted the outcome that the NLRB overturned the results and directed a second election for workers in Bessemer, Alabama. We are deeply concerned that the decision fails to adequately prevent Amazon from continuing its objectionable behavior in a new election. We proposed to the NLRB a number of remedies that could have made the process fairer to workers, which were not taken up in the Notice of Election issued today. Workers' voices can and must be heard fairly, unencumbered by Amazon’s limitless power to control what must be a fair and free election, and we will continue to hold them accountable for their actions.”  # # #   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.    

RWDSU Celebrates the Life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., (right) reviews an RWDSU contract with RWDSU Local 3 members employed at Bloomingdale's in New York City in the 1960s. This month, Americans everywhere salute the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For members of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), Dr. King's legacy has special meaning. We take special pride that, in 1968, the RWDSU was the first union anywhere to negotiate a contract guaranteeing Dr. King's birthday as a paid holiday. The RWDSU was among the earliest supporters of Dr. King's grassroots drive to challenge racial injustice in the South.   In Chicago during the 1960s, RWDSU provided an important forum for Dr. King to speak out against poverty in America's cities.  Later, thousands of RWDSU members stood shoulder to shoulder with other Civil Rights Activists during the historic 1963 March on Washington. Dr. King saw the Civil Rights struggle and the labor movement as closely linked.  He was a constant ally of Union Activists and most have forgotten that Dr. King was in Tennessee to support a Living Wage for Sanitation Strikers on that terrible April day in 1968 when he was slain at the age of 39. Dr. King spoke about the importance of the Labor Movement on many occasions. "Our needs are identical with Labor's needs: decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, and health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children, and respect in the community. That is why negroes support Labor's demands and fight laws which curb Labor. That is why the Labor-hater and the Labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature spewing anti-negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth," Dr. King said in a speech in 1961. In reflecting on the life and work of Dr. King, the RWDSU recognizes the fight he began is not over until equality for all is a reality, and it is up to our generation of RWDSU members to complete his mission. His spirit lives on in the Black Lives Matter movement, the labor movement, and everywhere people seek to create a more just and equal society for all of us.