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Market Basket corporate employees threaten walkout

"I Believe" signs popped up overnight at the Storrs Street Market Basket, supporting ousted CEO Arthur T Demoulas, as five managers head down to a protest at company headquarters.

(GEOFF FORESTER/ Monitor staff)

"I Believe" signs popped up overnight at the Storrs Street Market Basket, supporting ousted CEO Arthur T Demoulas, as five managers head down to a protest at company headquarters. (GEOFF FORESTER/ Monitor staff)

One year ago today, Market Basket employees gathered at the company’s Massachusetts headquarters. Then-CEO Arthur T. Demoulas’s position was in jeopardy, and they wanted to show their support.

Today, a group of employees from the grocery chain’s headquarters in Tewksbury, Mass., have again rallied to demonstrate their support for the guy they call “Artie T.,” the guy who knows their names and their families – by going on strike.

It’s unclear what effect the walkout could have on shoppers and the chain’s 25,000 employees at 71 stores across New England, including two in Concord.

Demoulas was ousted last month when Arthur S. Demoulas secured backing from a majority of board members after decades of feuds between the two. Two other senior executives were fired and seven more resigned.

About 75 people, mostly managers and directors, pledged to walk away from the corporate offices if Arthur T. Demoulas wasn’t reinstated yesterday, according to one employee.

Instead, the new co-CEOs, Felicia Thornton and Jim Gooch, released a letter announcing board meetings Monday and again Friday.

The letter also warned employees: “If you choose to abandon your job or refuse to perform your job requirements, you will leave us no choice but to permanently replace you.”

Thornton and Gooch held a meeting with headquarters staff that ended with “associates walking away . . . more irate and firm in their resolve than ever,” according to a blog post on

“Our associates at HQ will not be going to work. They will be backing up their words with actions and will be standing up for something they care so much for,” the post read.

If distribution stops, the stores could run out of perishable goods within a few days, industry experts said.

Jon Springer, retail editor for Supermarket News, has been writing about the Market Basket saga – accusations, shifting allegiances, fisticuffs in court – for about 10 years. The public acrimony is unprecedented, as is the employees’ threat of a walkout, he said.

“The idea of a company revolting because the CEO got fired, I’ve never seen that before. . . . There have been supermarket strikes before. The last major supermarket strike happened 10 years ago in southern California. Those stores were staffed with replacement workers and most of them stayed open. There was a little disruption, but they were able to operate the stores while that happened,” Springer said.

“In this case, this is kind of like a sudden strike, they announced it (Wednesday), and I have my doubts as to the completeness of the strike because there’s no union here. I have no idea what’s going to happen, but if the warehouses were completely shut down, that would probably be apparent to shoppers fairly soon.”

It’s especially rare, said market analyst David Livingston, for managers to be the ones spearheading a walkout.

“When there are labor walkouts, management has been trained to take over the jobs. There’s nobody cross-trained at the labor level to take over for management. It’s a very unique situation.”

But while some jobs are essential to keep the company open for business, others, such as accounting or payroll, wouldn’t affect operations, he said.

Tom Trainor, a Market Basket employee with 10 years’ experience at headquarters, said yesterday he planned to join the walkout, and he predicted customers would notice this effort. All of the buyers at headquarters are taking part, he said, which means there won’t be any merchandise to restock shelves.

“For perishables, it could be days. Grocery items could last longer, but the faster-moving items will wipe out quickly,” he said.

“Maybe we’re being naive, but that may work for us. We’re so naive we think we might actually win it. We can’t just sit and let this happen. If we do this, we can walk out with our head held high knowing we did the best we could,” he added.

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


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Legacy Comments40

The history of the Demoulas Family is rich with disbarred lawyers, Family Members getting screwed out of their stock, greed and a host of other in family dysfunction and fighting. My guess is there will be a movie based on this clan. I grew up in Lowell, and I can tell you that small city is filled with corruption and characters that would make for a never ending list of movie topics. Lowell also did the beautification of the downtown area. Did over mills, etc. Did not work though. The downtown is still filled with unsavory characters, and the mills are now low income housing.

Why does the left always try to tie every issue to racism? Arrogance and Uppity were terms us folks who lived in poor neighborhoods when I was growing up, used to described the folks who lived in expensive parts of town that had money and influence and pretty much ran the city. Bush was constantly called arrogant. He was also called dumb and stupid. President Obama was not stopped from investing in failed green companies, nor was he stopped from passing a Health Plan Law that nobody in WA had a clue what was in it. He also was not stopped from making a deal with Big Pharma who were against single payer. It sure would be nice if folks would discuss issues based on fact.

This family has been fighting for years and years. Happens quite often in family owned companies. Sad story. I doubt very much if in fact folks will stop shopping at MB. Many were not happy with WalMart, yet folks still shop there in droves. MB offers the lowest prices and those prices suit folks who are on fixed and low incomes. That will not change. The family feud will be forgotten and it will be business as usual.

As of yesterday, the19th, the MB in Warner had already ran out of certain produce and that staff in several departments were being sent home early as there was no product to be put out. I was informed that the Concord and Tilton MB were even worse off. At this rate, there will be no produce by Tuesday in many of the stores. This is what happens when greed is the number one goal of a business, can anyone say Wall Street and depression of 2007, or Enron, to name a couple. And people still say the Federal Government needs to stay out of private business, instead of regulating for the good of the population. And by the way, I totally agree with Itsa's post.

Despite being a relatively small grocery chain (71 stores), Market Basket is able to offer Walmart-like prices because it pays cash for their goods. This business model requires approx $500 million of cash on hand at any given time. The new management wants to hand out a $300 million dividend to the stockholders as opposed to old management who wanted to keep the old business model. Under new management, prices must rise because Market Basket will no longer be able to pay cash for their goods. It will be the end of Market Basket as we know it and may be the end of Market Basket period.

Wait and see! I give the crew now running things at MB 2 years. They'll get theirs; employees will get screwed; and customers will get rising prices and probably weaker inventory. Then comes the inevitable "asset stripping," and the rest is history.

This underscores a basic trend in business that is becoming all too common. This is a simplistic view of a convoluted story but, Arthur T was of the mind that employees and customers matter to a business as well as showing a profit. Arthur S. on the other hand is a believer of me, me, me. Screw the employees and customers and maximize shareholder profit. The beauty of a free market and unbridled greed.

Well GCarson, it is the exception and not the rule. I have worked for many nationalities and I can tell you that when you work for a "family" run organization and the ethnicity is Greek, you are expected to work as if you own it for the minimum possible. Arthur S. is old school and he does want to clean up and make lots of money. I have a friend who works for a Greek family that owns a donut franchise group and they have GPS in the car to track people in the field, you have to report directly to Greece every single day with emails, etc. They are brutal and very wealthy. Don't make the mistake of lumping the free market with this incident.

Wow Itsy, I had no idea you had such insight into Greeks. Perhaps you could share your thoughts about Italians and Jews. Be carful though, every one knows those Italians are all in the Mafia. Hell, why beat around the bush, you're a flippin' bigot.

No it is not bigotry. They are a tough bunch of business people. That is a fact in business. Even if they are "flippin" burgers. Your political correctness is showing. Stereotyping? Perhaps but that is the experience of many. T"hank" you for your name calling and trolling, however.

Itsa, if it looks like a bigot, talks like a bigot than most likely it is a bigot. By the way, for being such a "tough bunch of business people", their economy sure is in the tank.

I call a spade a spade, your political correctness stands squarely in your view of the obvious and reality. I have worked for many ethnic companies, work ethics and expectations are different. Greek companies have a very strong work ethic, I stand by that. They are tough to work for because they believe that as an employee you should work as hard as they do. Nothing wrong with that, some of our public sector workers could learn a lesson or two about that. Now educate yourself about the Greek economy:

Market Basket employee's best days are behind them. When these corporate raiders are finished, Market Basket will be a shell of what it once was. It was building up to be the largest supermarket chain in the northeast just by having low prices and loyal employees. The extra 4% must have drove them crazy, imagine giving back to the customers instead of the stockholders. All those employees with years of service written on their badges will be let go and new minimum wage "who cares" people will be hired. Just another Walmart with pretend low prices and employees who don't give a damn because they are treated so badly.

I would for the second day in a row, agree with you Tillie. I knew a cousin (who also ran a small grocery chain...RIP) and he had stories about this family back in the 1980's. This is a family blood feud that has been going on for decades. Demoulas is a value grocery store. If they worry about the stockholders versus the employees, you will see others like Shaws come back as there will no longer be a bargain store. I don't think, however that people will take reduced pay or that they will reduce their pay to minimum wage. If everyone could just say "this week we are shopping somewhere else", imagine what impact that would have. They could lose millions over a weekend. What would the board say then????? Richard Branson said it best: "The way you treat your employees is the way they will treat the customer". Just taking a look at Arthur C. Demoulas makes my skin crawl. He as %$#@ written all over him.

Itsa, MB would absorb the hit from any millions lost over a weekend, week, whatever (the 4% instant rebate is costing them a projected $200mil for 2014). This is ugly, for sure, but I don't see the powers that be caving in for anything, anyone. Sad, but true. Hopefully, I'm wrong. Time will, tell.

This is either worrisome to you or to me to have agreed twice on something, but I doubt it is a trend. This feud between cousins is like the "War of the Roses" the fight will probably destroy the chain altogether. MB used to be dinky dirty stores but Arthur T. built modern stores with even (gasp) public clean restrooms (not in Concord). Too bad.

Needless to say, I did my part and spent my $170 at Hannaford today is protest of what is happening at Market Basket.

I'm on the bridge here after reading that. Ah, but there might be a silver lining to this dark cloud. I say we market her daily dose of distemper; "Tillie Time". Instant suicide in an aerosol can. Dr Kevorkian would've been proud.

We're not employees, just customers. We have friends who work at Market Basket and won't be shopping there in support of them.

I understand your point, Ducklady, but it could backfire. An effective boycott of MB might mean company-wide cutbacks, resulting in layoffs for your friends. Then, you'll be 'supporting' them under your roof.

I think that the backlash from that would be tremendous. If MB folds, other players will replace them. The press that they will get will be so negative that they will cave.

Itsa, PBR's mentor, guru & God...Ronnie Reagan...shot 11,000 Air Traffic Controllers out of the sky in 1981. I wouldn't rule out something similar here on the part of Arthur S. & Company.

yup..and Reagan went easy on them too..Congress made such strikes punishable by fines or a one-year jail term — a law the Supreme Court upheld in 1971...

I dunno, GWTW. Ronnie was already cutting it to the quick with public approval by firing the lot of them. The damage was done. I mean, just where does an ex-air traffic controller find employment? Think I saw one running the Ferris Wheel at the 1982 Kiwanis Trade Fair in Concord (not sure with the bag over his head). If he had gone for 'all the marbles', by fining &/or jailing them, Reagan probably would've been just a one-term president. It was that big a deal, as you may recall.

The air traffic controllers were going to strike and impact the whole economy and they were not standing on the same principle, the union was being greedy. They may well pull the trigger and let them go. One only needs to look at the co-CEO's to see the kind of people that THEY are. They were both fired from their last jobs as CEO. How can you be a co-CEO? That has to be tough. Anyhow, I did my part and I would encourage others to do their part and shop elsewhere for awhile.

Itsa, I hear ya on the co-CEO thing. Was brutal enough being co-best man at a buddy's wedding, and that was just for one day. Co-CEOs can't coexist for too long.

That very well could be but the resultant backlash to the backlash could be equally swift. If we have an issue that even tillie and Itsa can find common ground over, then there is hope that the people could then speak with their pocket books. It's one thing to fight a faceless business, but this one has a face and we won't soon forgive a store that fires our friends, and family. Time will tell but greed with a face is much easier to fight.

Read on line they already fired the warehouse manager. They will probably say they lost so much business that they have to cancel the 4% which was supposed to run til Dec. We in this area really don't have much choice when it coms to boycotting. Everyone has to buy food and Shaws is expensive and Hannaford still is not as cheap as MB. Such a sad situation.

Dare I say the evil word that will divide Itsa and I forever. Unions.

I will tell you that I can't stand the kind of business people that seem to be at the helm of the chain. This chain has always prided itself on paying well and treating their employees well and have not had to worry about unionization. The two clowns that are co-CEO's (that can't last long) and Arthur S are called something in business. But to be civil, they manage down. Managing up would be what Arthur T did. Short term profit versus sustained long term growth is trap for some CEO's and leaders in business. Especially a privately held business. They are too concerned about short term profitability but can't see the big picture. In other words, they are number crunchers who are shallow in the thinking department. That includes big picture thinking, strategic thinking, creative thinking, focused thinking. If companies are patient, managing UP is the way to go and long term profits will be even greater. This fight internally is more about arrogance, ego and greed.

Don't get me wrong here Itsa, because I totally agree with what your saying, but doesn't this position go against your principle logic of the present business model? Just saying that I've seen many posts of yours that businesses need to be left alone to make whatever profits they can for the corporate officers and primary stock holders. MB hiring the fired CEO of the failing Radio Shack tells me this new administration wants it all and they do not care who they hurt as long as they get theirs first.

It depends on the company and how they handle it. If another company came in and bought them out, that is one thing. This is quite another. This is a consumer focused company being taken over by what would be considered to be corporate raiders in the real world. In this case internal corporate raiders. Government still needs to stay out but in this case, business practiced this way simply goes against my beliefs and feeds into the negative corporate stereotype that you progressive trump up every time something happens. In the Walgreens case, for instance it is about the government sucking away profits, in this case it is hurting the little guy, the employee.

I'm an independent, so please do not call me a progressive. I call a spade a spade, I don't see things through rose colored glasses. If I see a problem, I speak up. It just so happens that most of the conservative base is so radicalized against this president I get very upset. I know racism when I see it due to having been in many situations where it rears its' ugly head. Anyone who says different about how this president has been reacted to is just blowing smoke. There are a lot of things I disagree with him doing, but had Bin Laden been caught on Bush Jr's watch all the conservatives would be giving high 5's. All Obama got was no recognition for giving the order. That is just one. Take a good honest look and tell me in good conscience tell me the conservatives did not in the past and still do not work with this president on anything.

Well, I am an "independent" and I call a spade a spade. Your posts reveal that you are a progressive. And it is not racism, it is his arrogance, the chip on his shoulder and his pissy attitude that people don't like. His promise of transparency wound up being the dark of the night. His reaching across was trumped by his ideology and his constant, not stop campaigning versus having the dignity to administer as a leader is disgusting. "Why's everybody always picking on me" is so not presidential. In the next breath he is saying "I have a phone and a pen". People don't like him because he is like the school yard bully who is going to "show you a thing or two". How any intelligent person can't see through all of that is stunning.

First off, the word arrogance is usually used when an African -American asserts authority, Uppity (chip on his shoulder) is another word associated so as I see it you are prejudiced. I never once seen you comment that Bush Jr. was arrogant. All POTUS are arrogant but you only seem to use the word against Obama, why is that? Please enlighten me. You refuse to acknowledge that the whole conservative base has tried to blockade anything he has tried. I would do the same thing he did, the conservatives refuse to cooperate in any way shape of form, only obstruct, and now the conservative base is mad because he is using his authority to run the country. This country would be much better off had they cooperated, instead of obstructed. Take the conservative blinders off and look at the whole circumstance. Like I've said I know what racism is cause I been in situations where it reared its' ugly head and I've seen good people ruined. Oh by the way, just because I disagree with the republican platform doesn't make me a progressive, just like I don't care for the Democratic platform either. I look at each situation and base my opinions accordingly. As I said before I do agree with your earlier post about MB.

No, arrogance is an attitude, it is not racial. Harry Reid is arrogant, John Boehner is arrogant, Hillary Clinton is arrogant. Bush was not arrogant he was self assured. Bill Clinton was arrogant. Nixon was arrogant. Reagan was not. To your disappointment, he has no "authority to run this country" it is that kind of belief that causes the divide in this country You think that people who don't believe in an ideology should just "go along" rather than challenge those ideas. The first thing Obama did was spend his first year on ramming through health care reform rather than focus on the economy. I have been the victim of discrimination and racism before, I know how it feels.

I beg to differ, Obama asked for input and assistance from the conservative base and all he got was nothing, even when he wanted to include the ideas from the conservatives (remember Romney care)? Instead the conservatives refused to give any input whatsoever. Then you have the audacity to say he rammed the ACA through? Why cant you admit the all the conservatives have done is try to obstruct anything this Administration has tried to, and somewhat succeeded. I believe in challenging any ideas that I disagree with. What I disapprove of are people who do everything possible to make a person fail at their job and when that doesn't happen, they blame him for all that is wrong when it is those people who caused the damage in the first place. If you cannot see that, then you are not as open minded as you think you are. Oh by the way Saying "my way or the highway" isn't arrogant? Nice try. Bush Jr. was fine until he got a full republican majority in both houses.

"What I disapprove of are people who do everything possible to make a person fail at their job" you support the MB employees. As far as the ACA goes..the republicans were right to oppose this terrible law to a man. Its a bad law and you know bad in fact you'd have it forgotten completely if single payer could get passed..right?

He dismissed things like medical savings accounts, selling insurance across state lines, etc. And it was Obama who said: "the Republicans can come along for the ride but they have to sit in the back", "this legislation will be dead on arrival", "I won the election and I will not be sharing power". No Bush said: "I am the decider". Again, you are wrong and your opinion here is ideology and not factual.

Excellent points. Thanks for the insight.

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