Workers allege REI aims to stymie unionizing in Berkeley, Cleveland, NYC

Recreational Equipment Incorporated REI store entry showing company logo. (Photo by: Don and Melinda Crawford/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

REI in Berkeley allegedly retaliated against workers over the weekend by firing 10 as contract negotiations continue with the company, the workers' union alleged. 

Two of the 10 fired were bargaining team members. Union workers are trying to negotiate their first union contract at the store in Berkeley.

All of the non-management workers are represented by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5, which announced Wednesday that it has filed three unfair labor practice (ULP) charges against REI. 

"They don't want to be held accountable to their own standards," said Jim Araby, strategic campaigns director for UFCW Local 5. 

Union leaders allege that REI has engaged not only in retaliation but has negotiated directly with employees during contract negotiations and made changes unilaterally while negotiating the contract.

The charges were filed with the National Labor Relations Board. 

REI said in a statement that employees were fired "after a thorough investigation that confirmed fraud and violations of company policies."

REI declined to mention specifics of what prompted the firings, but said "violations were brought to our attention by attentive staff who bravely chose to report their concerns. We thank them for acting in the best interests of REI and the co-op's values."

The statement continued, "We believe the ULP charges are without merit. We have clear documentation of policy violations and took appropriate action consistent with REI's long-standing disciplinary practices."

Workers at REI in Berkeley have been in contract negotiations since November. Nine workers were fired for violating policies that were not enforced until now, said Freddi Farias, one of the workers fired.

The nine broke different policies that had never been enforced, said Farias, who was at REI for almost 18 months. 

When Farias joined REI, he was enamored by the company's values and by the people who worked there, he said. 

Now, he still likes REI as a company, but like Araby, Farias said REI is not living up to its values. 

Union leaders believe that REI is trying to stymie organizing and bargaining efforts not only in Berkeley but in New York City and Cleveland. 

The workers in Berkeley are the second group of REI workers to unionize. The vote took place in August.