Workers frustrated with REI's response to unionization

While living in Northern California, I ran to REI for last-minute camping, kayaking, or cycling. The stores always proudly displayed biographic information on the outdoorsy-ness of their employees, and the annual rebate, matched with the inclusion of the word co-op in their marketing, confused me. REI is a corporate outdoors brand that does not exactly welcome the unionization of the very employees they marketed on their walls.

Add REI to the list of folks I avoid because they are anti-union. My daughter will learn to live without her Acai Berry Refresher from Starbucks.


After health and safety worries during the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by furloughs and job cuts, Chang's team in SoHo became REI's first union shop in March 2022, in a landslide vote of 88 to 14.

"Despite being a large corporation, we had hopes that REI would be a different type of company, like they say they are," Chang says. "So we were hopeful that they would voluntarily recognize the union and, you know, meet us at the table and negotiate in good faith."

REI did not voluntarily recognize the union.

Labor's labors lost? A year after stunning victory at Amazon, unions are stalled
Labor's labors lost? A year after stunning victory at Amazon, unions are stalled
Since the SoHo store's vote, seven more stores across the U.S. have unionized; a ninth vote remains too close to call.

Pro-union workers have formally accused the company of breaking labor laws — threatening and intimidating workers, disciplining and firing organizers — which REI denies. More than a year into it, workers and the company are nowhere close to a collective bargaining contract.