Did Bull Moose Shut Store Over Mask Mandate? Workers Say Yes
Employees from the Bull Moose store in Salem who abruptly lost their jobs are reaching out to other stores, including the stores in Portsmouth and Sanford, Maine, for support.
The movie and music store with 12 locations in New Hampshire and Maine announced on Saturday the store had closed early on Thursday but could not reveal the reason "to protect the confidentiality of our former employees."
"We can, however, say we are confident this decision was in the best interest of our customers, employees and business as a whole. We can also say emphatically this decision had absolutely nothing to do with masks or face coverings for employees or customers," the store's message read.
According to employees, everyone was fired on Friday.
Several former employees of the Salem store took to social media, including Andrew Bove, 19, to blame the chain's decision to end their mask mandate, but said the issues with the store may have started in April when a manager and another person suddenly left.
Representatives from their corporate office took over managing the store which was already short-staffed, according to Bove.
"They're doing a lot of unhealthy micro-managing, like trying to really rigidly schedule all the breaks for everybody, trying to make sure there wasn't a chair at a low table that you have to crouch at to use the computer. Just really weird nit-picky stuff that didn't help anybody," Bove said.
Things came to a head when workers were asked for their feedback about ending the store mask policy, according to Bove. Employees at the Salem store said they would prefer the policy remain in place.
"I'm vaccinated and everyone in my household is. There are people who live in New Hampshire who have not been able to get the vaccine yet. There are people who have immunocompromised relatives or themselves are immunocompromised," Bove said.
Management announced the policy would, in fact, be eliminated for those who are vaccinated, according to Bove.
Employees expressed their anger in an email chain with corporate leaders and talked among themselves about a possible walkout.
The next day the staff was informed they had been let go and the store was being temporarily closed.
The chain's COVID protocol page was on its website Monday.
Bove was unclear of the next move for his fellow Salem workers. Attempts were being made to reach out to employees at other stores for a possible bigger stand against the mask policy.
"We want to make sure employees at other Bull Moose stores know what's happening," Bove said.
The Portsmouth store staff will likely not be affected by changes to mask policies, as they are under Portsmouth's mask mandate, which is in effect until the end of June.
Although the executive order for New Hampshire's mask mandate expired on April 16, businesses can continue to require them. The state's Universal Best Practices which took effect May 8 also allowed individual stores to require them.
When the CDC announced all individuals who have been vaccinated no longer needed to wear a mask at all many retailers ended their policy. However local mandates and policies such as Portsmouth's would take precedence under the CDC's revised guidance.
Chamber Collaborative of Greater Portsmouth President Valerie Rochon told Seacoast Current that there's already been an increase in what she calls "bad behavior" since the state mandate expired.
"The hotels, restaurants and retailers in Portsmouth are concerned. All of their staff are not yet vaccinated, the staff are wearing masks and intend to continue wearing masks even after June," Rochon said. "What the mask mandates have done for front line staff is to give them a stick behind the door that says 'this is a city or statewide mandate. Please be respectful.'"
Portsmouth's mandate has also helped with the ongoing hiring issues in helping to protect their young workers from the abuse of customers who get angry at the mask requirements.
"You need to keep them safe. We have a legal obligation to keep them safe," Rochon said.
Bull Moose on Monday did not respond to Seacoast Current's request for more information.