Were Bomber staff mistreated?

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Mitch Forster, while working his last shift at the Bomber last year. He was escorted out of the bar during the Last First Bomber.

Mitch Forster arrived at the Last First Bomber on Wednesday, Jan. 9 in his Bomber sweater to show respect and say goodbye to a place that had given him more than a job, it was a place that had fostered fond memories and close friendships. Forster was escorted out by security.

Forster had worked at the Bomber for over four years, first as a University of Waterloo (UW) student manager and then as the host of the wildly popular Open Mic Nights.

Other former staff members were unable to even enter the pub as they were refused line bypass, a privilege that had been theirs for all other prior events.

Jessie Wright, a former full-time staff member and Arts student at UW, recalled sending messages to Brian Schwan, Manager of Commercial Operations, through security guards for two hours before he came outside to talk to them.

This was only the most recent injustice dealt to the Bomber staff by Feds. Both Forster and Wright unveiled treachery, humiliation, and conspiracy behind the closure of the beloved Bomber.

Wright described confusion and a lack of straight answers from the Feds about the reasons for the Bomber closure, and Forster divulged events that lead him to believe a plan was already in place to close the Bomber long before Kurt MacMillan had the authority to make that decision.

On Dec. 17, when the Feds announced that the Bomber would officially be closed, they called an emergency meeting.

Wright says that the six people who were able to attend were left shocked and confused, with no real answers to their many questions.

“[Brian Schwan] actually gave all of us student managers a raise a week before this happened. He held open interviews on the day that they announced that Bomber was closing,” Wright said. “It wasn’t just the fact that this happened. It was the fact that they pretended the whole time that it wasn’t happening. By giving us fake raises and false hope that we were hiring new staff for the term. I think he’s just an absolute snake.”

“[They] completely shunned us at this point,” Wright said.

Forster took issue with the million-dollar loss that has been quoted frequently as the primary cause behind the closure.

“Bomber was never supposed to have a profit, it’s a non-profit organization, any excess that they did have, they were supposed to put it back into the Bomber in order to keep their non-tax status,” Forster said.

Forster also mentioned the systematic firing of the most profitable events of the Bomber, from the ruination of Trivia Nights to the unexplained termination of his own employment.

“The most profitable Open Mic Night that I had, there were 375 people … there was lots of money coming in and we had sponsors and everything was good,” Forster said. “The night after my most profitable one, they let me go. Without an interview, without cause.”

Forster also told Imprint of the host of Trivia Nights who was let go for a much older and more irrelevant presenter, and DJ Whitegold, a Kitchener-born and world-renowned DJ was also forced to leave.

“DJ Whitegold, who is one of the best DJs in Canada … he was the resident DJ for years and years and years for Bomber Wednesdays … they restricted what he was able to play to the point where he didn’t want to play there anymore,” Forster said.

Wright, on the other hand, mostly experienced the decline of the Bomber over the two years that she worked there.

She stated that the ideas of the younger workers were disregarded and major decisions on events were left to people in their 30s and 40s who were not up to date with student culture.

“There were so many times that, as a student, I would bring about ideas that perhaps the students would watch for, events for menu ideas, and for some reason they would shut down our ideas. And it was a team of like 30 and 40 year olds making all the decisions for our student body,” she said.

“I do know that Bomber sales had been going down. But I also feel like I know the reasons behind it,” Wright said.

As well as being left in the dark, Wright feels that Bomber staff were humiliated, betrayed, and deceived.

She said Bomber staff were told that the decision to close the Bomber was made on Friday, Dec. 14. Before they closed it down, Feds had their Christmas party for their full time staff, a party where Bomber staff worked only for wages as all meals were comped.

“They made this decision on the Friday before the meeting […] That was the day of the full time staff party that myself and the other student managers had to serve after they already knew that Bomber was going to be closing. They took advantage of us. [They didn’t tell] us Bomber was going to be closing and then we served them,” Wright said.

“It was a stab in the back,” she said.

On the day of the Last First Bomber, Schwan and MacMillan refused to talk to the Bomber staff, Wright told Imprint. Finally, Schwan emerged from the Bomber to tell staff that they were to wait in line like all of the other students, or they would be upset.

“That put us all off because, being ex-Bomber staff, we felt like we deserve to be treated not just like any typical student … we are the staff that ultimately gave them the success that they did have and the reason that the line for that last Bomber was so long was because of us,” Wright said. “And then they couldn’t even reciprocate by letting us into Bomber with the line bypass.”

“When Brian did talk to us, we basically told him, just in the middle of SLC,  how disrespected we feel and how much we disrespect him now because of what happened,” she said.

Former members of the Bomber staff are now trying to move on and continue their lives.

“We’ve looked into all the legal stuff behind it as well because they did mass fire 58 people which isn’t allowed but I don’t know we’ve looked into everything that we can do. We really pay more compensation but there’s nothing that we can do at this point,” Wright said.

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