REI’s Response to a Store’s Unionization Effort Forces Tough Reconciliation With Progressive Image

The outdoor retailer is attempting to draw deeper lines around certain brand values

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The pandemic exposed bitter fissures between companies and their staffs. But for brands that have aligned themselves with progressive consumers, such as outdoor recreation retailer REI, dealing with labor strife cuts two ways.

The 85-year-old Seattle sporting goods brand, which has 165 locations across the U.S., is being confronted by staffers at its New York SoHo location trying to form a union. The labor action is a direct blow against REI’s stance as a “consumer’s co-operative,” which the company says is based on “shared values” between management, staff and its devoted shoppers.



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