Bull Moose workers at the retail chain’s Salem, New Hampshire, have voted to unionize.
That comes just months after the company fired the store’s entire staff and closed the location, which the workers said was over their pushback to the chain’s decision to lift its masking policy for customers.
The Salem workers voted unanimously last Tuesday to join the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445, which represents more than 12,000 grocery, health care and other workers across New Hampshire.
Fernando Lemus, the local’s president, said the union was “excited” to see the Bull Moose workers back the organizing drive.
“These workers came to us after management ignored their complaints about workplace safety and harassment. No worker should have to experience this. 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,” Lemus said.
One worker, Andrew Bove, called the vote a “first step” toward creating a “better workplace.” He said the store struggled with adequate staffing and compensation before the controversy earlier this year.
“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.
Kameron Brooksmoore, another worker at the Salem store, said creating a union was “a representation of our bond and our willingness to advocate for each other and our rights.”
Bull Moose told the Portland Press Herald that it was “surprised” over the vote to unionize, saying it has been working to “implement” feedback from its staff.
The next step for the Salem workers is to negotiate their contract with Bull Moose’s management, according to the union.
The workers at Bull Moose’s Salem location were all fired and the store closed in May after the workers there objected to the company’s decision to lift its mask mandate. Workers told the Bangor Daily News that they had faced harassment and threats — including one customer who allegedly brandished a gun — for enforcing the mask mandate.
Bull Moose denied the workers were fired over their objections to lifting the mask mandate, but later apologized for the firings and offered to rehire all of them.
The union vote comes amid a surge in workplace organizing since 2020, when Maine saw nearly 13,000 workers join a union, pushing the percentage of the state’s workforce represented by a union to the highest point in decades. So far this year, Maine has seen a high-profile union drive among nurses at Maine Medical Center in Portland, as well as smaller organizing efforts at the Portland Museum of Art and among southern Maine transit workers.