REI, the camping and outdoor retailer, is the latest company in the U.S. to face a unionization call by workers fed up with poor treatment, little pay, and no prospects for career advancements.
Employees at the REI location in New York City’s SoHo, which includes about 115 workers, have expressed their desire to be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, according to The New York Times.
An employee who has played a key role in the effort told the paper that there are several reasons at play for the push to unionize, including a “tangible shift in the culture at work that doesn’t seem to align with the values that brought us here,” and the struggle that they claim to face amid an ongoing “global pandemic.”
TRENDPOST: The Trends Journal has reported extensively on the impact that COVID-19 has had on workers in the U.S., who are tired of working dead-end jobs while their bosses’ boss has never been richer. (See “UNIONIZATION TREND ON TRACK,” “LABOR UNION COMEBACK” and “RECORD QUIT RATES: TAKE YOUR JOB AND SHOVE IT.”)
The shortage of workers and the desire of employed workers to organize and go on strike share a common root cause: people are far less inclined to perform menial, unfulfilling jobs for meager pay. (See “STARBUCKS STORE TO UNIONIZE, A TOP TREND FOR 2022?”
REI, for its part, offered the standard company reply. The company did not condemn the move—which would be a PR headache—but it also expressed confusion as to why these workers would want to form a union. 
“We respect the rights of our employees to speak and act for what they believe—and that includes the rights of employees to choose or refuse union representation. However, we do not believe placing a union between the co-op and its employees is needed or beneficial.”
TRENDSPOST: REI, the consumer cooperative, tries to bill itself as a progressive company that seeks the greater good for society by selling overpriced Yeti coolers and tents, but yet when unionization could get in the way of profits, the campfire song changes its tune.
The retailer has 168 locations in the U.S. and employs 15,000 people. Jacobin magazine reported that Eric Artz, its CEO, earned $2 million in 2020 compared to entry-level jobs at these locations that start at about $15 an hour.
Kate Dedend, a worker at the store, told Motherboard’s Lauren Kaori Gurley that the company prides itself on “being a great workplace, a leader of the outdoors, but why is it that none of us are making a living wage?”
“Why do you have to work 40 hours a week for 12 months to get health benefits? Why is there no guarantee of hours after the holiday season? These are very basic things that REI has gotten away with not doing, despite this facade of being a progressive, liberal company,” she said.
TRENDPOST: In the 1960s, a slogan (derived from a poem by Carl Sandburg and made popular by anti-war activists) asked, “What if they had a war and nobody came?” Now, in the 2020s, the question might be, “What if they had jobs available and nobody applied?”
TREND FORECAST: We maintain our forecast that with a severe shortage of workers despite a strong demand for them, and many workers feeling disheartened and underappreciated, labor unions, long in decline, will make a comeback; see “POLITICO JOURNALISTS FORM UNION. A TREND OF THE TIMES” (2 Nov 2021), “DEERE EMPLOYEES GO ON STRIKE: MORE STRIKES TO COME” (19 Oct 2021) and “SPOTLIGHT: WORKERS ON DEMAND” (26 Oct 2021). 
And, as unions continue to gain strength, and the stronger they grow, the greater the demands they will make; if those demands are not met, union workers will stage “actions” like slowdowns and/or strikes.

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