About 20 employees fired and rehired by the Salem Bull Moose record store last summer have voted unanimously to unionize with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445.
Employee Andrew Bove said in a statement the Tuesday vote was about justice and security.
“Before we got fired, we went weeks without adequate staffing or any kind of increased compensation. When we brought up our concerns to management, the company demonstrated that it considered us completely disposable,” Bove said in a news release.
The next step is for the workers to form a committee to negotiate a contract between the bargaining committee members, union representatives and company management. No dates have been set.
Salem worker Whitney Villers said she hopes employees across the Maine-based company, which has three stores in New Hampshire, will join forces.
“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,” Villers said.
The workers were fired en masse in May for no stated reason, following a disagreement over COVID-19 safety policies in the store, the workers claim. The move was widely publicized and stoked vocal backlash on social media, with some calling for a company-wide boycott.
Many of the fired employees aired unrelated grievances with their experiences at the company, including workplace harassment from customers in the form of racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia.
Workers reached out to UFCW Local 1445 because they said those concerns were ignored by management.
By June, the company hired back the employees it fired with a public statement apologizing for the terminations and vowing not only to provide them with back pay, but to strive to raise wages across the company to a $15 per hour minimum by June 2022.
“We are sorry that we did not act anywhere near how we want to be as a company,” Bull Moose founder Brett Wickard said in the June statement. “We pride ourselves on building community and acting with empathy, yet we failed on both those counts.”
“While we have seen some improvements, we want to make sure there is the lasting change that comes from a strong union contract,” Bove said. “This vote to unionize with UFCW Local 1445 is our first step to create a better workplace where we have a true voice and can negotiate the better pay and benefits we have earned.”
The company sent a congratulatory email to the Salem staff and said Bull Moose looks forward to negotiating a contract with them, according to a union spokesperson.
UFCW Local 1445 represents 12,000 workers in grocery, health care and frontline industries across New England, according to the union.
A statement released by Bull Moose on Wednesday said: “Since June, we’ve been listening to our 11 Bull Moose retail teams, and we’ve been making great progress implementing their feedback. Given where we are in that process, we’re surprised by this news out of the Salem location. As a company, we remain committed to having a very positive work environment and we’ll continue that work in Salem and across all 11stores.