1,000 signatures reached
To: Eric Artz (REI Co-op CEO) and the REI Co-op Board of Directors
REI Co-op Must Hold Itself To A Higher Standard During The COVID-19 Crisis
We are the retail workers of the REI Co-Op; the inspired guides who are the face of the Co-op; the stewards of this business; and the bodies who wear our green vests day-to-day.
We are the Co-op, but in recent days and weeks, we’ve been treated as disposable. We’ve been laid off en masse, or forced to resign. Those of us that remain have been left in the dark about coronavirus response policy and have been knowingly exposed to COVID-19 without notification, denying us the ability to make informed decisions for ourselves and our families. This has been confirmed in Grand Rapids, MI, in Atlanta, GA, and in Tucson, AZ but more cases are coming to light every day.
But we’ve had enough.
We are coming together as employees of the REI Co-op to present this list of demands. They are not unreasonable, and they are not presented in panic — they represent a sober and realistic response to the crisis in which we find ourselves. We expect the Co-op to acknowledge and grant these demands, and hold itself to a higher standard during these unprecedented times.
We, the workers and recent ex-workers of REI Stores nationwide, demand:
1. Immediately offer to rehire any and all REI retail workers laid off or pressured to resign since the COVID-19 shutdown that began March 15th.
Recent ex-workers will be offered a sufficient amount of time to make their decision on whether to return to REI, based on the implementation and success of new safety precautions and procedures, as well as the developing situation with COVID-19 across all stores.
2. Any REI retail workers who have not been called back to work since the COVID-19 shutdown will be granted an extended furlough or paid leave.
3. Safety precautions in the stores will be improved to go above and beyond the CDC guidelines, rather than simply following corporate’s flawed interpretation of said guidelines. This includes:
(a) The formation of a COVID-19 Action Committee (CAC) to meet regularly as a way for the workers and management to be transparent and cooperative in combating this unprecedented public health crisis.
(b) The CAC developing and enacting stringent safety precautions and procedures that ensure the health, safety, and comfort of all individuals working at REI stores.
(c) At any point where consensus cannot be reached within the CAC, safety precautions and procedures will be decided democratically by a vote of all REI retail workers at each store location.
(d) The management team will take a more active role in enforcing safety precautions and procedures on the sales floor — especially in high traffic areas, such as footwear and pack fit. We, the workers, will continue to advocate for our own health and safety; however, it must also be the duty of management to actively alleviate the discomfort and health risks of REI retail workers who are faced with customers refusing to abide by the safety precautions and procedures.
4. REI retail workers must all receive a hazard-pay increase to their hourly wage going forward, as well as back pay for any time worked since the COVID-19 shutdown on March 15th.
5. Management must acknowledge the limited and insufficient data regarding the definition of close contact (6 ft.) and the duration of time that constitutes a prolonged exposure (15 minutes). This guidance from the CDC is offered as an operational definition and is not to be used as a hard cutoff.
(a) Management must also acknowledge that the CDC guidance on potential exposure is irrespective of whether the person with COVID-19 or the contact was wearing a cloth face covering or whether the contact was wearing respiratory personal protective equipment (PPE).
6. Upon any further positive cases of COVID-19 in REI stores, all REI retail workers at the impacted store locations will be notified immediately, within the scope of all applicable privacy laws, along with the local community that’s been exposed in the store. The store will then be cleaned and disinfected according to CDC guidelines.
(a) Impacted stores will be closed to customers for seven (7) days from the last time the COVID-positive individual was present in the store, whether on the sales floor or in the warehouse. During this time, these stores must only operate on a SIF and curbside pickup capacity.
Why is this important?
There is a time for profit, but this is not that time. The actions of leadership in the Co-op during the coronavirus pandemic have been disingenuous: they have breached trust, they have disrespected the workers who represent the Co-op, and they have put human lives at risk in the interest of sales numbers. In a crisis such as this, the REI Co-op needs to be a leader in our communities and in our country by putting people over profits. We do not live in the same world we did a year ago, and we must courageously embrace change. Industries will change, businesses will fail, and we will have to find a way forward. This is a difficult and unprecedented situation, but it is not impossible.
Now is the time for the Co-op, at every level, to live our values. These demands are not made for the selfish gain of a few during this unprecedented crisis, but rather in the interest of protecting everyone at the Co-op, both members and stewards — we go further together, after all. These demands are about worker’s rights. They are about public health and safety.
Granting these demands will create trust in the Co-op for employees and members alike, and will maintain the reputation this company has been building since 1938. To fail in doing so would be failing at the Co-op’s most basic goal: to enjoy a life well-lived. We are all responsible for the Co-op’s results. It’s time for Co-op leadership to do their part.