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Stocks and businesses react to war in Ukraine: live updates

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Stocks and businesses react to war in Ukraine: live updates

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Workers at an REI store in New York City voted to unionize on Wednesday, making it the only union in the outdoor-equipment and apparel retailer. The vote at the store was 88 to 14.

The voting in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood follows a string of unionization efforts by high-profile employers in the service industry. Employees at three Starbucks stores have voted to unionize since early December, making it the only union at a company-owned store. Workers at two Amazon warehouses will end voting in union elections at the end of the month.

REI, with approximately 170 stores nationwide and 15,000 employees, is a cooperative owned by customers who purchase lifetime memberships in the vein of Starbucks, currently $30, and brands themselves as a progressive company. . Its website states that the cooperative believes in “putting purpose before profit” and that it invests more than 70 percent of its profits in the “outside community”, which includes contributions to non-profit organizations.

“REI Soho workers are ready to negotiate a strong contract that will allow them to maintain the co-op’s progressive values, while providing the highest level of service we hope to REI customers,” said Stuart Appelbaum President said in. Retail, wholesale and department store unions, which helped organize workers.

After the vote, the company said in a statement, “As we have said throughout this process, REI firmly believes that the decision of whether or not to be represented by a union is an important one, and we will continue to choose each employee.” or respect the right to choose. Refusal to represent the Union.”

John Logan, professor of labor studies at San Francisco State University, said that like Starbucks, REI attracts workers who have an ideological affinity for unions beyond potential practical benefits, such as increased wages.

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“REI seems like another example of predominantly young workers not buying into the argument of unions being a special interest group,” Mr. Logan said in an email.

The company put the average age of its employees at 37, which is about five years less than the average age of all American workers.

Store employees began to organize in the fall of 2020, partly because many felt that employees who were vocal in raising COVID-related safety concerns were forced to temporarily close their stores by REI that year. There was no permission to return afterwards. The election petition was filed five weeks ago.

In a video conference with reporters convened by the retail workers union last week, Claire Chang, a visual presentation specialist who has worked at the store for more than four years, also spoke about concerns about coronavirus safety. cited.

Ms Chang said that after stores reopened in 2020, managers asked workers how comfortable they would feel about reopening fitting rooms, where employees are in constant contact with the clothes customers wear .

“Most employees, if not all employees, said they weren’t comfortable with it, and they still went ahead and did it,” Ms Chang said.

Steve Buckley, a sales specialist who has been at the store for nearly six months, said in a video conference that he was one of several workers who became infected with the coronavirus during the Omicron surge while the store was crowded with customers.

An REI spokesperson said the retailer let less than 5 percent of its employees nationwide upon reopening and the decisions had nothing to do with how vocal the employees were. She said the fitting rooms were equipped with sanitizing supplies and the stores had limited capacity during the pandemic.

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She cited a 2021 survey showing that employees generally rated the company highly on questions such as whether it considered them as valuable employees.

Many workers said they sought to unionize because of a gap between REI’s behavior and its stated values, adding that the workplace had become more impersonal and profit-focused as it sought to expand.

Graham Gale, an employee involved in the event, said in a text message to a reporter in January, “There’s been a big push to sell memberships.”

The workers also said that REI had waged an aggressive anti-union campaign, in company executives about the risks of holding meetings with employees and hanging content in break rooms and creating websites that highlighted these risks.

Mr Buckley said in February he attended a meeting with senior officials that lasted about two hours and touched on issues such as health insurance. Officers were “openly yelling at us that we were wrong about the basic policies at our stores and the basic conditions we faced,” he said. “What a respectable environment is this?” The company provides health insurance to workers who work an average of at least 20 hours per week after one year.

The spokesperson said the company had sought to share information about unions, and that the February meeting was a long-scheduled training session on revamping the company’s membership program.

Logan, a professor of labor studies, said one reason REI’s efforts to prevent workers from unionizing, such as Starbucks, may not have been effective, because the stores were typically not top-heavy with supervisors.

“They operate relatively autonomously, with little managerial presence or oversight, thus providing ample opportunity to speak to the union,” Mr. Logan said. “After doing so, the anti-union propaganda becomes less effective – their minds become so.”

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