So, I’ve seen a few mentions of REI attempting to bust the unionization effort of their Manhattan store. As they had previously managed to present themselves as a reasonable company (for some value of the word under our late stage capitalism), I have a co-op membership. So, as someone who is very pro-union, this news has upset me. Not surprised me—I don’t expect ethical behavior from companies given how many times I’ve seen them betray that—but upset me.
I have tweeted at them about it twice now, because I feel being very public in expressing my disappointment is critical in forcing them to do better. Public shaming can affect their profit margins after all. But I also decided to send them a longer form feedback through their website while logged into my account which is associated with my co-op membership.
I am sharing what I wrote here, in case anyone else with an REI co-op membership would like to do the same and you need a little help in figuring out what to say. If you are a member of their co-op, please consider both sending them direct feedback like this (and requesting a reply), and very publicly calling them out. Feedback sent to emails and web forms are easier to sweep under the rug. Publicly stating that you’ve sent that feedback, and making sure those you know who share your values are informed on the situation and are given a chance to stand with you in putting pressure on the company can be a very effective tool to get change.
Here’s what I sent:
I have been hearing about your employees efforts to unionize in your Manhattan store, and how the company’s response has been to immediately invoke union-busting tactics. As a member of the co-op, this upsets me.
I am a customer and a co-op member because until this gross misstep on your part, I have found REI to be one of the better retail establishments. The fact that you feel attempting to prevent unionization of your members is in the best interest of the co-op tells me that my evaluation was wrong.
A union is not at odds with the healthy running of a business — it serves to give the employees a voice in how things are run. Yes, your employees can join the co-op and have a voice that way, but their voice is potentially diluted as a part of the greater whole of the co-op.
Unions give employees a better voice in the work environment, and happy, healthy, and safe employees are better workers and a better asset to the company. Embracing their unionization effort will also build a bridge of trust and cooperation, allowing the co-op as a whole and the union to better work together to ensure that everyone’s needs are met.
I strongly encourage you to cease your union busting efforts, and voluntarily recognize the union instead of fighting it. A union is a tool to help facilitate communication, nothing more.
It will be better for REI. It will be better for the co-op members. And it will be better for the employees.