I suspect that many of those siding with REI have never had a minimum wage/retail job that they relied on for survival — food/shelter. Very easy to assume that a) there are better options available or b) the “it’s just a part-time job, what did you expect?” line.
It’s been shown time and time again with pages of actual statistics (remember those?) that more than 1/2 the minimum wage workers are older than 23. Doesn’t sound like they are just working for beer money. The myth of the teenager working a few hours a week to make some walking around money is alive and well — but should have been retired years ago.
Fact is that in our society, we accept as our God-given right the idea that minimum wage folks are (basically) the property of their benevolent companies who can use them to squeeze every last drop of (short-term) profit from their labors as possible. They should be glad we give them any work at all…
Why does a company’s ultimate responsibility have to lie with maximizing profits for shareholders? That’s a bit of dogma that we perpetuate un-examined. What’s best for society as a whole? No concrete answers to give, but certainly a lot to discuss that just gets swept under the rug because the existing system definitely favors the “haves” over the “have-nots” and there are a lot of people too invested in maintaining the status quo to change.