Berkeley REI employees approved a bid to unionize with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5, or UFCW5, in a vote Thursday.
The committee responsible for the unionizing efforts sought to improve working conditions, wages, hours, payroll transparency and the accountability of the human resources department, according to a previous Daily Cal article.
Kayla Blado, spokesperson for the National Labor Relations Board, said in an email the motion passed 56-38, with one contested vote that was not counted. She noted that all parties would have five business days after the vote to file any objections.
“If no objections are filed, the result will be certified and the employer must begin bargaining in good faith with the union,” Blado said in an email.
According to Jules Geritz, a Berkeley REI employee, the process of securing a union began last year. After gathering interested members, employees began working with a coordinator at UFCW5, Geritz added. They gathered enough interest to meet the National Labor Relations Board’s minimum requirements and set election terms at a stipulation hearing.
The proceedings were initially set to be in person toward the end of July, Geritz said. However, they alleged that Berkeley REI’s failure to file the proper paperwork — along with quarantined employees’ inability to participate — resulted in the decision to use mail-in ballots. The votes were due Aug. 24, and the National Labor Relations Board counted them the next day.
REI public affairs noted in a previous correspondence with the Daily Cal that the company would continue to support employees moving forward.
“As we have said throughout this process, REI believes in the right of every employee to vote for or against union representation,” REI public affairs said in an email.
According to Geritz, the next step for the union is to negotiate a contract for union members. They added that the employees have been able to secure percentage-based union dues rather than UFCW5’s usual flat rate.
This will help make union payments more manageable for employees who work less frequently than others.
“(The vote) has guaranteed that the employer will now have to sit down and bargain with the employees over wages and working conditions in the store,” said Jim Araby, UFCW5 director of strategic campaigns, in an email. “The union is committed to winning a stronger first contract and working with other REI stores across the bay and country.”
Araby advised that people seeking unionization should work to find others who desire change. They can then form a leadership team before contacting a union to strategize. He noted that workers always have the right to organize and that they are stronger together.
Geritz echoed the sentiment, noting that a solid network of support is a key component of any attempt to unionize. Fear and misinformation are bound to be present when organizing a union, making flexibility and close connections all the more important, according to Geritz.
“It’s much easier to be for something than fighting against something,” Geritz said. “You are in the right with this, and your relationships with people will keep through.”