SALEM — Local Bull Moose employees who were suddenly fired, then rehired, earlier this year have officially unionized.
A statement Wednesday from United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445 announced that the Salem retail workers voted unanimously to join the Dedham-based union of 12,000.
In May, a mass email from Bull Moose CFO Chris Brown informed the staff of 20 that their employment was terminated. Higher-ups in the company did not explain the decision to workers or the general public.
The unemployed, however, spoke up about their last conversations with company leadership, regarding a debated decision to do away with a mask mandate.
Employees said at the time they were accustomed to feeling unsupported by leadership, especially in difficult situations with the Bull Moose customer base.
Union officials say they were approached by Bull Moose workers with complaints about workplace safety and harassment on the job, including racism, sexism, transphobia and homophobia.
The 419 South Broadway location was closed for several weeks with a sign seeking applicants posted on the entrance.
By mid-June, Bull Moose Founder Brett Wickard had offered everyone their jobs again, with back pay.
A statement on the company’s Facebook page read in part, “Over the last few weeks, we listened to our staff and got to work on fixing what we could, changing what needed to be changed, and demonstrating a concrete recommitment to our values.”
Wickard said the company became committed to accelerating company raises, so that all employees can earn at least $15 per hour by June 2022.
UFCW Local 1445 President Fernando Lemus said in a statement this week, “The past year has demonstrated the value of having a unionized workplace, and we know that a strong union contract will help make Bull Moose a better place for workers, customers, and our community.”
As of Wednesday the Salem location was the only one of Bull Moose’s 11 locations in Maine and New Hampshire, including Keene, to take this action. But that could change.
“We all deserve to have a voice, be heard, and be treated with dignity and respect at work,” said Salem worker Whitney Villers. “We’re looking forward to seeing Bull Moose workers across New Hampshire and Maine come together and join us at the negotiating table as we secure a union contract that improves these jobs for all of us.”
The next step is contract negotiations between Bull Moose worker bargaining committee members, UFCW L1445 union representatives, and Bull Moose management.