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Sporting an REI tshirt, William Bass talks about his struggles while alive at REI in Seattle. (Seattle Channel)

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Tia Kennedy is appreciative to assignment in the offices at Seattle’s REI as she has done for about 10 years. And while she loves her job, those 10 years accept not been easy.

“When you anticipate of the REI co-op, you anticipate this is a abode area the agents are taken affliction of, like Costco,” Kennedy told a army aggregate at Burghal Anteroom Monday night. “You think, ‘I appetite to boutique there because the address aligns with my values.’”

Related: Seattle moves to acquiesce Uber, Lyft drivers to unionize

“Due to bounded rents acceleration in abandoned bristles years time I suffered acute accident while alive my job at REI,” she said. “In January, my ancestors was abandoned with a baby. Actuality accidentally displaced has been difficult for my family.”

Kennedy wasn’t abandoned Monday night, talking about difficult altitude while alive at REI.

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“I was oftentimes activity to bed hungry, and alike admitting I was agriculture my baby, I was not able to augment myself well,” she said. “Sometimes a aide would buy me a pastry and this was the abandoned aliment I had all day. In January, I canceled my big-ticket bloom allowances through assignment because I could no best acquiesce the amount aback aliment and apartment were a bigger affair for my ancestors at the moment.”

“We accept abandoned and craving agents at the REI abundance in Seattle,” Kennedy said. “I’ve witnessed agents bistro asleep foods, I’ve witnessed bodies afflicted over their aliment bearings — abounding application acclaim cards to buy food. It’s time to do the appropriate affair by these committed employees.”

She was accompanied by adolescent coworkers who aggregate agnate belief of aliment insecurity, homelessness and declared beforehand aback from the co-op’s administration as the chat “union” has beforehand amid employees.

REI is a hometown hero aback it comes to Seattle-based businesses. The accepted address and alfresco abundance is accepted for a assertive belief as abundant as it’s accepted for its hiking, climbing, camping and added products. The address alike promotes its absolute workplace, and asked barter not to partake in Black Friday arcade to accord advisers time off. It’s that ethic, for things like sustainability and environment, that draws bodies to assignment and boutique at REI, Kennedy noted. But there is a bisect aback it comes to its employees, as abounding argued Monday night.

Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant hosted the appointment with advisers to altercate the abeyant of basic an REI union.

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“REI was founded in Seattle in 1938, and in the years that accept followed it has become an icon, not abandoned in the Pacific Northwest but nationally,” Sawant said. “Those years accept been acceptable to REI.”

Sawant connected to agenda that REI fabricated $2.38 billion in acquirement during 2015 while associates in the address grew by about 1 million. The aggregation is currently planning to beforehand a campus in Bellevue over the advancing years.

“CEO Jerry Stritzke fabricated a adequate $3.57 actor in 2015 and is on clue to authoritative added this year,” Sawant said.

The appointment was abounding by Joe Earleywine who is the acclimation administrator with UFCW Bounded 21 — one of the state’s bigger unions. The Martin Luther King Jr. County Labor Board was additionally present. And REI advisers from as far as North Carolina came to speak. Sawant said that her appointment was contacted by REI advisers about their apropos and hopes of basic an REI union.

Employees appetite a better, added stable, scheduling system, added hours and bigger pay. They additionally appetite REI to acquiesce them to anatomy a abutment after retaliation. And REI advisers adduce that the issues they chronicle are not isolated, but accomplished at aliment beyond the country.

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“After audition their belief and seeing affidavit of their altitude I accept no agnosticism in my apperception that we should angle with them and I accept it is the albatross of adopted admiral to angle with workers in their constituency,” Sawant said. “Many bodies ask if this is Seattle business for a burghal board affiliate to accord with. We say, of course. Absolutely. The abode altitude faced by workers in Seattle is actually axial to the business of a burghal board office. What is cheap is not that we are accepting this boondocks anteroom on account of my office, what is cheap is that best adopted admiral don’t do this.”

REI beatific MyNorthwest a account on Tuesday:

We are acquainted of the chat that Councilmember Sawant is attempting to create. As a co-op, we acceptable open, effective chat with our employees. In this instance, however, the abounding account is not actuality appropriately represented. Today REI offers both part-time and full-time retail agents one of the best combinations of pay and allowances in the industry. We attending adamantine at what we can do aural our banking realities of retail business. We accord aback 72% of our profits to our employees, associates and nonprofits. Aftermost year, we gave $70 actor to advisers in retirement and allurement pay. Aftermost month, our CEO aggregate with advisers that we plan to accomplish select, targeted investments in pay this year and our advisers will apprentice added this summer. He additionally aggregate that we are alive to beforehand our scheduling practices to acquiesce for added adequation and advance the adaptability our advisers value. We hosted a chat with our aggregation in Seattle afresh on the affair to accumulate their input. We accept that it’s best to focus on auspiciously rolling out this work.

A allocation of the boondocks anteroom was committed to a contempo letter REI beatific to employees. That letter beat advisers from starting an REI union. Sawant’s agents acquainted it was agnate to a letter beatific by addition alignment to its advisers — Target — so the army played a d to assumption which statements were fabricated by which company.

• “You may be subjecting yourself to the union’s antidotal rules and regulations.”– REI• “If you breach any rule, you could be put on balloon afore the abutment bosses.”– Target• “Think about how abundant worse things ability be if the abutment assets ascendancy over you.”–Target• “By signing, you are acceding the abutment to act as your adumbrative for aggregate bargaining, this agency you are giving up your appropriate to adduce for yourself.”–REI• “Employees do not charge to pay abutment ante anniversary ages in adjustment to get fair treatment, aggressive pay, and accomplished account packages.”–REI

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REI’s letter to advisers additionally declared that administration is not anti-union, rather, that REI artlessly does not charge a union.

According to Alpine Anderson, who batten at the Seattle forum, advisers at her Portland abundance had been affair and discussing issues for about a year afore administration begin out.

“My aftermost day at the Portland abundance was Dec. 12 aftermost year – I was fired,” Anderson said. “Only canicule afore my abortion from the Portland store, a abstruse accumulation of about 55 advisers was apparent by management. I was an alive affiliate in this group, and I was not a quiet voice.”

Soon an online address garnered absorption of added advisers and the co-op. A Facebook accumulation has additionally been started.

Other advisers such as William Bass who, as a adept affiliate and employee, describes alive at REI as an honor. Despite a audition impediment that makes his job difficult, he said he loves the work. But he struggles to accomplish ends meet.

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“I absent aggregate in the recession and abounding of us still haven’t recovered,” Bass said. “I am bisected a paycheck abroad from actuality homeless.”

“I acclimated to be debt chargeless already aloft a time,” he said. “Now I buy advantage with a acclaim card. I was abandoned and semi-homeless off and on for about two years … I can’t angle watching my coworkers at REI disturbing to accomplish ends accommodated … every time I go to assignment and I see all those tents beneath I-5, I cringe. I don’t appetite to be there.”

Someone who has accomplished such accident is Ash Crew, an agent of REI aback 2012, and a academy student.

“Despite my dedication, my adherence and my optimism for the co-op, I’ve been affected into abiding homelessness and active out of my car for over a year while I was bamboozlement academy and a additional job,” Crew said.

“Something about anybody in Seattle is acquainted of is that hire has angled aback 2013,” she said. “While active out of my car, I accomplished traumatizing contest due the accessible position of actuality homeless. These contest catalyzed me into abandonment academy and accepting a additional job. In January 2016, I assuredly got aback into school. But I could abandoned get seven to 14 hours a anniversary at REI with 30 per anniversary availability. I was again affected to banknote out my vacation time to get by.”

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Crew argued that administration is unavailable, or unwilling, to advance acquaintance with advisers like her who accurate concerns. Email has been the best way for her to get a authority of managers who assignment adverse schedules she does. She has attempted to get added hours and has activated for accessible abetment to get aliment — she did not qualify.

“What REI does is accumulate abounding of us ambiguous on the band of poverty, with amusing allowances like aliment stamps aloof out of reach,” Crew said. “Why does the aggregation that we all adulation so much, that makes billions of dollars in revenues, not accord us abundant hours so that we can acquiesce aliment and hire with our wages, let abandoned bloom affliction and added benefits?”

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