FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is collective bargaining?
A union is a group of coworkers who come together to negotiate a contract collectively with their employer over working conditions, wages, and benefits – a process called “collective bargaining.” Our bargaining committee will be made up of a representative group of REI Berkeley employees – people from different departments, part- and full-time, long-time employees and fresh faces – regardless of whether they voted yes or no. The union is for everybody, not just its most fervent supporters.
Through surveys and in meetings, we will all decide our top collective priorities for what we want to see in our union contract, put together a set of proposals, and go to the negotiating table with REI. UFCW will provide us with a professional negotiator to help us bargain the contract. At the end of negotiations, we’ll all vote yes or no on the contract.
What are union dues?
We will not pay any dues until after we vote yes on our union contract. If we don’t feel like our contract is worth more than our dues, then we’ll vote no and go back to the negotiating table. REI has told people that we could end up with lower wages and less benefits in our union contract. Ask yourself: Would you vote yes on a contract with worse pay and benefits than you have now? No! Of course not. We’ll take our raises from The Way Forward and our current benefits as the starting place for negotiations because we would never accept less than what we already have.
I like my manager. How will having a union affect our relationship?
REI managers have told us that we won’t be able to have a direct relationship with them if we vote yes on our union. Honestly, that’s just not true. We would never get in the way of your direct relationship with your manager – whether it’s a working relationship or a social one. However, if you ever want support in a disciplinary meeting with a manager, you can call on a union representative or shop steward to be there. We’re there when you need us, but not when you don’t. You get to decide.
Will I need to go on strike?
Strikes are very rare. They’re the last resort in contract negotiations. If we did feel we needed to go on strike, all of us would vote on that decision. We always aim for nearly 100% support in strike votes, because strikes aren't effective unless they have overwhelming support. If we did vote to strike, you would receive strike pay from the union strike fund for participating in the picket line. Strike pay is between $120 and $150 per day. This strike fund is part of where our monthly dues go.
How will starting a union affect The Way Forward?
Another question that coworkers have asked is why we should unionize when REI is making improvements to our compensation through The Way Forward. While we’re very excited to be receiving raises, better compensation is not the only thing we hope to accomplish by unionizing.
All of us have different priorities, but in conversation with everyone we’ve heard that people also want guaranteed hours and schedules, better paid time off, more accountability in our HR process, and a say in policies that impact us every day, like our store COVID protocol. We want to negotiate for those priorities and more, and we want a binding contract to protect our benefits so that they can’t be changed unilaterally by Seattle without our input. Our contract will protect the improvements made by The Way Forward and ensure that experienced employees are paid fairly for their knowledge and years of service.
We also think it’s disingenuous for our managers to claim that The Way Forward has nothing to do with SoHo unionizing. The email about SoHo voting to unionize was sent on March 2nd, and the email about The Way Forward was sent on March 3rd. One store unionized, and REI is prepared to spend $50 million to stop other stores from unionizing. If these are the raises we get from just one store unionizing, imagine the improvements we could make if we come together with our coworkers across the country.
A unionization drive at our store in the 90s was quashed with one-time raises, but 30 years later, here we are again, experiencing the same problems. Let’s protect our future REI Berkeley family by enshrining our collective voice in a contract.
Why UFCW and RWDSU?
If you’ve had a walk and talk with one of the managers, you may have heard something like this: “Unions in general are good, but you all picked a bad one.” Corporations say this in every campaign against unionization, regardless of what union you choose, but it begs the question: Why UFCW and the RWDSU?
We talked to multiple unions in the Bay Area and New York before picking UFCW and RWDSU and would be happy to discuss why they were the best fit for our stores. The obvious reasons are that UFCW and RWDSU are the union for retail workers, but there’s more to it. The best way to learn more about the union is to talk to your coworkers who are unionizing meet our representatives! You can get connected with your coworkers and organizers by visiting our Contact page here.