REI laying off 275 retail jobs nationwide, union to take action

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Seattle-based REI will cut 275 retail jobs, including 19 in Washington state and an unknown number in Alaska, where REI has a store in Anchorage and one in Fairbanks.

The cuts come at a time when, one by one, REI stores have unionized over the last year. In February, the company, run as a nonprofit, laid off 8% of its workforce, and this round of layoffs will eliminate 2% of the jobs, for a total of 10% downsizing this year alone.

The company is changing its brick-and-mortar business model, said Mary-Farrell Tarbox, REI vice president of stores, in an email to to employees Thursday. It will hire seasonal workers and part-timers as a part of the change — jobs that offer 16 to 24 hours per week.

“Our current operating model for stores is more than a decade old,” Tarbox wrote. “There are many areas that are out of date and no longer serving our employees or REI’s mission and business.”

The “Lead” role in stores was chosen for cuts, according to the Tarbox email, as it is “the most inconsistently used role across the fleet and [we] are retiring it effective immediately.”

United Food and Commercial Workers Union has been organizing in several of the stores, making demands of a company that is, by its actions, struggling to compete. New York, Berkeley, Cleveland, Chicago, Boston, Durham, N.C., Maple Grove, Minn., and Bellingham stores are now unionized.

The REI Union wrote that the union will be pursuing legal recourse because the company is required by law to negotiate with the union any major layoffs. It’s unclear if 2% of the workforce will be seen as a major layoff by the courts, but litigation appears on the horizon.

The REI union wrote, “instead of honoring the expertise their most veteran employees bring to the Co-op, REI made the callous decision to lay off tenured staff even while they are still hiring new staff at lower wage rates. REI executives are sacrificing their most loyal employees to cut labor costs– a decision that not only betrays the values the co-op was founded on but eliminates years of expertise that REI customers have come to rely on when they shop.”

With unionization on the march at REI, the union management doesn’t seem to connect their actions with the company’s management decisions. Instead, the union has been heralding its organizing victories:

The REI Union has written extensively about its unionizing efforts, but appears to not understand the consequences for workers.

“But let us be clear: because we unionized in SoHo, these layoffs are *illegal.* REI has a legal obligation to negotiate with their unionized workers over ANY restructuring plan. REI has broken the law by unilaterally implementing these changes in the eight unionized stores,” the union wrote on social media.

In a response to other social conditions, such as out-of-control shoplifting and other crime, REI decided to close its store in the Pearl District of Portland, a location that last year recorded the highest number of break-ins and thefts in the past 20 years, despite adding security. That store will close in February, which will also add to the downsizing of the REI footprint.

REI has more than 16,000 employees are 181 locations in 41 states plus the District of Columbia. 

30 COMMENTS

  1. Oh well.

    I vowed to never set foot in an REI store again after being subjected to their particularly heavy-handed and wildly overzealous mask nazism. F’em.

    • Ultra liberal = ultra scandemic responses

      Went in there once then ,had the arrows all over the floors directing traffic .
      Good riddance to them and their overpriced garb

    • Same. If these businesses were really concerned about public health, they would have simply closed up shop until they felt totally ‘safe’. But they want money, so they reveled in forcing the mask nonsense.

      Haven’t set foot in Barnes and Noble after they actually called the police on a customer in 2021. Their blue haired, tattooed and bi-curious employees will have to leach from someone elses’ wallet – and I’ll just make Jeff Bezos richer if I need a specific book. Shame, because what Amazon has done to local retail is a travesty.

  2. The company is still called REI? I’m confused.

    I thought they had changed their name from REI to DEI years ago.

  3. Return Every Item
    REI is extremely over priced. The people who shop there seem to be people with money to burn. Look for what you want on the internet. You’ll pay 50% less. You’re welcome.

    • It used to be the only real great store that sold exceptional trusted recreational equipment. Over the years it’s became a “crappy store” more for stylish un-sporty clothing/equipment.. Later many other stores established on the quality and cheaper and took over what they were established for (supporting the mountaineering/hiking communities). It sold out to China and bought their junk to sell at exclusive unaffordable prices..I became a member back in the early 70’s to get ready for a snowshoe hike with a group of mountaineering friends. But the store has gone downhill in the past 40 years to the rich “high-toned” stylish millennials plus and their quality hit rock bottom.. They’re only running on their reputation which has also slipped.

  4. When anyone is collecting voter signatures for a far-left cause or a socialistic ballot measure the Anchorage REI store is acknowledged statewide to be about the best spot so far as signatures per hour day after day. I cannot help but suspect that they import their woke, bigger government ideas to Alaska from Portland and Seattle. I would not be at all sad to see them pack up and go home.

    • It was established and created IN Seattle for mountaineering climbers,(good) BUT took on the “green” Environmentalist and took on Seattle politics..It’s just following Seattle politics.

  5. Let’s see. A failing company’s employees choose to unionize. Said company then starts laying off workers.

    Who could have predicted that?

    Or that a socially progressive group like REI stops being socialist when it affects the bottom line.

    Damn? Who knew?

  6. I try to shop local. I had a bad experience with a Kool-Aid hair lady at B&J. She seem really upset at me whenever I asked questions.

  7. I remember when REI was located upon the West side of Spenard Road, just North of Northern Lights Boulevard, when it was the everyman’s store to purchase outdoor and climbing gear, especially within the downstairs area. Wool pants, crampons, ice axes, snowshoes, bunny boots, etc., etc.

    That is where we all of us went, back in the 80’s, to procure outdoor equipment at affordable rates, as well as to BJ’s at Northern Lights Boulevard between A and C Streets…

    The ‘Yuppies’ and those with money to burn shopped at AMH (Alaska (or was it Anchorage?) Mountaineering and Hiking) with the same items, but with better supposed ‘name brand’ supply.

    From then unto now, REI has become what AMH was at that time upon steroids, within that the goods that it offers are incredibly overpriced simply because of the name associated with said items, as well as promoting and taking an ideological stance far beyond simply providing quality outdoor products at a reasonable price, as unfortunately, they have become ‘woke’.

    Coincidentally, another business that currently occupies a neighboring location that REI used to occupy at the Northern Lights Mall at Spenard and Northern Lights Boulevard is Title Wave Books, which before its progression unto ‘Wokeness’, when located upon Fireweed Lane just East of Spenard, was truly an independent bookstore where one could find a myriad of treasures for the bibliophiles within its dusty narrow aisles and stairways.

    It is tragic, within mine own mind and existence, that two such institutions, which were so much relative unto the uniqueness of the customer base within Anchorage, within years past, have become the representation of the mindset of those that occupy Portland and Seattle, rather than Anchorage of years past, which within my own mind, is detrimental unto us all.

    I shall never shop at either store again, ever.

      • So, Andy, do you identify as an Android, or do you represent an Android operating system?

        Within either case, surely you can expound upon your thought processes beyond a singular word, or perhaps you cannot, as you have no actual original thought process…

        Your response tells me two things.

        You cannot make an erudite argument, and you cannot represent a current argument versus a past argument.

        You see, Andy, you believe that your ‘modern’ thought process is somehow superior unto mine own past, or ancient, within your own mind, thought process, but here is the truth of the matter.

        I, and the very many of us others here, were once your age, and of your mindset, that is, at that age, we believed that we knew more than our elders, as is the transition from generation to generation, and it not until said generations grow older that we understood how much we do not know, or did not know, before said wisdom and experience showed itself.

        The difference, Andy, between our generation and yours is simplistic, and garnered upon a singular term, and that is respect unto those that have come before us, of which you have no comprehension of.

        You think I, as one of my generation, disregard or even foment the actions of the current generation, which, as a baby boomer, is a couple of generations beyond your existence, but I digress.

        My parents were part of the Greatest Generation.

        Your parents were part of the generation that allowed you to become, that is, without general knowledge nor respect of history, so as not to repeat it within a detrimental form.

        You think I whine regarding the past.

        I actually mourn the future that those such as yourself bring unto being, as you have no idea what your existence and thought process shall bring about within your own future.

    • Back when I lived in Anchorage, Tidal Wave was a great place to get books at good prices.

      I was back in Anchorage in ‘20. Went by. Based on what I saw from the parking lot, didn’t bother to go in.

      • And Tidal Wave was as heavy-handed and gleefully authoritarian in their mask nazism as was REI. I was in there (hiding in the stacks with my mask down) in February of 2021 for about three hours, during which time the Karen of a manager caused a HUGE scene with each and every customer who dared to come in without a stupid mask, even threatening them with calling the police (which would have resulted in nothing happening with the APD anyway).

        • I tried to enter Title Wave in March of 2021 to replenish my book collection without a mask, as I cannot wear one, but with an ‘approved’ face shield, and was met with not only said Karen, but her staff approaching me within a semi-circle with their arms held out, as a group attempting to corral geese or ducks. I stood my ground until they stopped, literally surrounding me, so I took several steps towards their supposed leader at which time she screamed unto them to call 911.

          I decided at that time that it was really not worth the effort, bowed unto them within a stage type farewell, and exited the building, never to return.

      • Really, Leo?

        What needs do you believe I can go to Walgreens now?

        Please, thrall me within your acumen.

  8. Unions, of late, are more about higher pay for less work. That philosophy generally leads to less jobs, but the union does not care. Unions are a parasite on businesses, a parasite that will kill the host.
    .
    The days when unions benefitted the workers is long gone.

  9. Union reps made unions too expensive on private and state employers. Also I see it made employers holding inefficient unproductive employees accountable a challenge. I think state governments should go through surprise inspections to check how effective and productive its employees are like a hotel chain can get inspected by its corporate office anytime of a year. It keeps the GM and dept managers on their toes making sure their staff are trained well and doing what they they are hired to do.

    Unions can be good if it didn’t violate a private or state employers rights. As well as if its representatives weren’t so greedy with the dues it collects. The dues are supposed to be only for litigation if the employer is being bad.

  10. Unfortunately, unions are responsible for the outsourcing of many manufacturing jobs once done in our country. Now the big movement is to unionize the retail and services industry because they can’t be outsourced. No, they will just fold. Hard to figure how this will benefit unskilled labor. Most college graduates are not qualified or above doing the labor that is required to make our country strong. Would not want to be stuck on an island with the lot of them.

  11. Hmmm…Ravn Alaska pilots unionized by joining ALPA last year. Now the company has announced suspended service to Kenai and Aniak, citing a “pilot shortage”. Or could it be rising costs that make them unable to compete with Grant and Ryan? It’s a deal with the devil when you unionize at a struggling company….

  12. REI is just a showroom for Amazon. Try something on in REI. then as you are sitting in your car in their parking lot … order it for less on Amazon (or ebay or backcountry). REI has a 1990s business model. And unionization is putting them back in the 1950s. REI is toast.

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