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Market Basket workers ignore yet another ultimatum

Another ultimatum, another deadline come and gone, and Market Basket employees are still protesting the removal of their CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas.

His replacements had ordered store directors to remove all signs not related to store merchandise – like the ones outside the Storrs Street store that say “Honk for Arthur T.”

The signs – in the windows, on the doors, on shopping carriages lining the sidewalk like guards at attention – will stay until Arthur T. is back, said Assistant Store Manager Robin Jarvis and Front End Manager Jason Desjardins.

“I’m not scared. What are they going to do, fire me?” Jarvis said.

That’s exactly what co-CEOs Felicia Thornton and Jim Gooch implied they might do to managers who left signs up, in a letter to mangers delivered Thursday.

They also sent letters to employees of the company’s Tewksbury, Mass., headquarters, who have been striking and not making deliveries to the stores. The letters warned that if employees didn’t report for duty yesterday, they’d be replaced.

“It’s just another threat. It’s, what, the third time they’ve said that?” Desjardins said. “Why should we believe this one?”

The employee protest and subsequent customer boycott of Market Basket is heading toward its fifth week. Revenues are reportedly down to about 10 percent of normal volume. Negotiations are reportedly continuing between Arthur T., and his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, who represents the side of the family that owns the majority of the company.

Meanwhile, signs are staying in place at the Fort Eddy Road location, too, said Grocery Manager Scott Poulin.

Private security workers working for Thornton and Gooch visited the store yesterday and took pictures of the signs, he said.

“Theoretically, yes, they could fire us,” Poulin said. “But that would just irritate the movement more, to remove the store directors and managers.”

And the movement is so much more than the employees now, he said.

None of the three people holding signs outside his store yesterday afternoon were employees.

Cheryl Pasanen of Concord is a customer. She doesn’t work for the store, and doesn’t have any family members who do, she said.

“But I believe in this store and what this store stands for. If it closes, or if Arthur S. keeps control, it will be no different than shopping at Hannaford or Shaw’s,” she said.

She went to Shaw’s once during the boycott, and spent $60 more for her regular groceries, she said.

She went straight to Market Basket after that, to add her receipt to a window display of receipts from other stores showing the financial impact of the boycott.

“I was in tears. I can’t take that in my budget,” she said.

The prices at Hannaford have been more closely comparable to what she’s used to seeing at Market Basket, but she’s lost something intangible shopping there, she said.

“I feel totally at home here. The people are accommodating,” she said. “When they say family, it’s more than just a word.”

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

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