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Seattle employees celebrate as REI raises wages at select stores

Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant gathers with REI employees at the Seattle flagship store to celebrate the wage hikes that are planed for August. (KIRO 7)

Northwest-based outdoor co-op REI is upping its wages in the first in a series of employee changes.

Co-op leadership told its employees this week that a quarter of its stores will see a bump in wages — mostly around 10 percent. The co-op says it is focusing the raises during August in urban areas where living costs are placing a strain on its workers.

REI insist that its latest changes to employee pay and scheduling are not a reaction to employees sharing stories of being hungry and homeless. Rather, it is the first in a series of changes at the company that will take place over months.

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But that won’t keep Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant from celebrating. She and Seattle REI workers gathered at the flagship store Tuesday to celebrate the win for employees. Sawant helped organize a town hall July 11, where REI employees spoke of hardships while working for the outdoor retailer that Sawant says reported $2.4 billion in revenue for 2015.

According to an REI spokesperson:

Effective August 21, we are making significant investments in employee base pay. Twenty-five percent of REI stores will receive pay investments ranging from 5-15 percent. The majority of these stores will receive an average investment of 10 percent. Every employee in these markets will receive an increase, and increases will vary by employee. In addition, our store employees will be eligible for annual merit-based pay increases.

Those markets that REI is focusing on are: Seattle, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Portland, San Francisco and Washington D.C. it is focusing on those cities because it is where “rising living costs are having a disproportionate impact.”

“By mid-2017, all REI retail store employees will be paid clearly above the majority of retailers in their market,” the spokesperson said, noting that the outdoor co-op has been considering the changes for months. In October, the company plans to update employees on further changes that will address other concerns involving scheduling.

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