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Gov. Patrick: Market Basket workers should return

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick speaks  during a news conference Tuesday, April 29, 2014 in Boston, announcing the appointment of Erin Deveney as interim head of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families. Deveney's appointment came following the resignation of DCF Commissioner Olga Roche, after the deaths of three children in DCF oversight. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick speaks during a news conference Tuesday, April 29, 2014 in Boston, announcing the appointment of Erin Deveney as interim head of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families. Deveney's appointment came following the resignation of DCF Commissioner Olga Roche, after the deaths of three children in DCF oversight. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)

Gov. Deval Patrick is urging Market Basket employees to go back to work while a deal to sell the chain is hammered out.

Patrick told reporters yesterday that he’s spoken to the chairman of the board and with ousted former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.

“I think everybody is interested in a sale,” Patrick said. “My understanding is they either have an understanding or are very close to a price.”

Protesting workers are demanding that Arthur T. Demoulas be reinstated. He was fired in June by a board controlled by his rival cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, and has been negotiating to buy the company.

The governor said his greatest concern is the supermarket chain workers. He said it’s worrisome that “associates who are basically powerless in this may be held hostage to a private dispute, frankly within a family.”

“I don’t think that’s appropriate, and I think it’s important for the shareholders to know that I and others don’t think that’s appropriate,” he said.

Patrick also said that it’s entirely within the power of protesting employers to stabilize the company by going back to work.

“I think it’s important for the workers to understand, for the associates to understand, that they can go right back to work and they would do a service to the people served by Market Basket,” he said. “Usually companies are able to buy and sell each other without workers walking off the job and saying they’re not going to work unless they get the boss of their choice.”

Patrick had largely stayed out of the high-profile dispute until last Friday when he wrote to Market Basket’s board of directors urging them to quickly resolve the leadership question. In a letter to the board, Patrick wrote that he’s not choosing sides but, “by any measure, the disruption that followed your recent change in CEO has gotten out of hand.”

At the time Patrick also offered any help he or members of his senior staff could supply to find a solution to the dispute roiling the company.

Patrick said members of the board took him up on the offer and reached out to him.

He described the tone of his separate conversations with the chairman of the board and with Arthur T. Demoulas as “civil and respectful” even as he acknowledged that the issues that divide the ownership of the supermarket chain run deep.

On Tuesday, Market Basket said it had sent a final notice to those distribution and headquarters workers protesting the firing of Demoulas to return to work by Friday.

The company said Tuesday that letters were sent to about 200 workers it says haven’t reported to work since July 17. The company said earlier workers who didn’t return by Aug. 4 would be replaced, and held job fairs last week.

Thousands of employees have protested, and some customers have boycotted. The distribution interruption left most of the company’s 71 stores empty of meat and produce. The chain has stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.

The offer from Arthur T. Demoulas for the private company has not been disclosed, but an industry publication has estimated the company’s value at up to $3.5 billion.

Legacy Comments4

Interesting news from Fox 25 last night. It turns out Deville Duval does have a dog in this fight, because his wife is a partner at a Boston firm that represents the "independent" Directors who have sided with Arthur S. She is co-managing partner at Ropes and Gray, of Boston, which deals with labor and employment issues. What part of "conflict" don't you understand?

The good governor from Massachusetts doesn't seem to get it, and should just clam up.

You heard the devaluator! Employees back to work! Customers, keep doing what you're doing. ASD and his two stooges think it costs money now, just wait 'till all the help shows up and the customer $$$ don't. Then it will be a layoff and you can all collect until it's really over.

Yep...time to go back to work.

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