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REI Union Busting

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What a lovely company, oh sorry I mean “co-op.”

When William Littig showed up for work at his REI store on Feb. 21, it didn’t take long for him to realize it would be his last day.

Two managers who were visiting from other stores called him into a closed-door meeting, Littig recalled. One of them read from a paper that turned out to be his termination notice.

The manager said Littig had been “made aware” that REI employees “were unhappy with store leadership and were discussing ways to effectuate change.” Littig, the manager read on, had failed to “escalate the situation to the appropriate leaders in a timely manner.”

Littig insisted he’d alerted the company within days, and refused to sign the letter. He handed in his store keys and green vest and quietly left out a side door, leaving behind four and a half years at a company he’d loved, with no severance pay and a little more than a week on his health insurance.

The firing of a popular department manager shocked the store’s workers, according HuffPost interviews with several employees. It revealed the aggressive response of REI ― a customer-owned cooperative known for its progressive image ― to a union effort that’s organized nine stores so far. And it underscored the difficult, sometimes impossible position that companies put low-level managers in when their underlings start to discuss unions.

Workers get fired all the time for trying to organize, and many managers likely meet the same fate for failing to prevent it. What’s unusual in Littig’s case is that the company was so frank about its reasoning when it fired him.

This is gold.

REI recently topped Forbes’ list of “the best brands for social impact.” It has taken public stances in support of racial equity and LGBTQ+ rights. And its inclusive reputation has drawn the talent of workers like Littig, who identifies as queer and nonbinary and signs off his emails with “I accept all pronouns.” But like Trader Joe’s and Starbucks, two other progressive brands facing organizing campaigns, REI has chosen to resist collective bargaining among its workforce.

Of course! Union busting probably helps with Forbes!

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