The Market Basket board of directors faces unified opposition from both workers and customers who want the board to either reinstate ousted former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas (Artie T), or allow him to purchase the company. Judging by what I have seen the profit losses during this boycott must be staggering, so I decided to make a trip there and see what was going on. At first glance it seems like the stores aren’t open because there are no cars in the parking lot, especially considering that my visit took place on what would normally be a busy Saturday afternoon.
Protesters were outside waving to the cars that drove by, enjoying generous support responses from drivers who would honk their horns repeatedly and wave back at the sign holders. Once inside I have to say it looked quite strange to see no one else. I spoke with a worker who had been there 25 years and had personal experiences with Arthur T. Demoulas who said
“Artie T loves the people who work for him, that’s why we are all standing up for him now.”
Many shelves are bare and the isles are deserted with the exception of the skeleton crew who are diligently keeping up with what little there is left to do. Everywhere you look there are reminders of the power struggle being waged as workers have put tasteful effective signs reminding all who come that they want Arthur T Demoulas back in control.
As I was making my way through the store I found a lone shopper who was happy to chat about her thoughts on the matter. Mary Ann, 69, is a Salem resident and has shopped at Market Basket since it first opened. I thought that she would say that she was a die-hard loyal customer, that’s why she was still there, but her response was unexpected:
I support the boycott and the workers but I have a little girl’s birthday party to save and I just came from Shaw’ s where the lines are too long for me to wait, so I’m getting just a couple of things I need. I’m not going to shop here until Artie T is back.
To some this may seem like nothing more than a squabbling super rich family matter, but to the workers who have pride and loyalty in this company it is about the changes Arthur S Demoulas threatens to bring as the board elected new CEO. The issue certainly goes deeper than two cousins fighting over money.
The board of directors have a few choices ahead of them: They can rehire Artie T as CEO, they can sell the company to Artie T, or they can proceed as planned with a vigorous shake up of current prices, policy and personnel. One thing seems certain though, employees and shoppers alike, the ones who can make or break a company, are unified in their stand. How much profit will Market Basket have to lose before the board of directors come up with a viable solution? Anyone’s guess is as good as mine.
I’ve heard some negative comments about Artie T in comparison to another more famous local business owner, allow me to share what I know. Being a former employee of Malden Mills and having my Aunt Jackie Hosty as the 32 year secretary for owner Aaron Feuerstein I remember him well. There was a Great Fire in 1995 that crippled the plant’s production of Polartech, a technology in winter weather apparel used all over the world by companies like Nike and others. I strongly believe Feuerstein’s words helped shape my ethics and sense of fairness, and his actions still resonate through our community almost twenty years later.
“Nobody needs to worry, I’m going to continue to pay everyone out of my own pocket. I have insurance and I plan to rebuild the facility right here.”
Artie T might not be Aaron Feuerstein, but I see the same spirit of unity and belonging in his employees as was then, and all participants can be proud to know that there stand has already made a difference in the hearts and minds of their community, just like it did back in my time at Malden Mills.
As a side note, the board governing Malden Mills rewarded Feuerstein by firing him too. More and more this seems to be the attitude of Corporate America that greed is good even at the cost of employees and customers alike.