Grocery chain leadership change enrages workers, management. Entire community acts

Guest post by Carli Stevenson

There is an unprecedented workers’ movement going on right now that you probably don’t even know about: Management, rank-and-file employees and customers are uniting in support of ousted CEO, workers go on wildcat strike

For those of you with C-level aspirations who would also like to remain in possession of your soul, consider the situation unfolding at New England family-run grocery chain Market Basket as a lesson:  in an unprecedented and strange turn in American labor relations, top executives, rank-and-file employees have united in a movement to return their beloved CEO to the corner office.

This morning, thousands of Market Basket employees, customers and supporters are rallying in Tewksbury, MA, where the company is headquartered, to demand that the family-run Board of Directors return Arthur T. DeMoulas as CEO. The Board meets in Boston today.

Market Basket is a regional grocery chain with stores mostly in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. For those of us from New England, it is an institution. It has the lowest prices of any grocery store around. Its employees are fiercely loyal, because under the ousted CEO Arthur T. DeMoulas, they received the best wages in the industry, profit-sharing, and yearly bonuses. It was not uncommon for Arthur T. to stop in to stores just to say hi and thank people for their hard work. He was known to visit employees in the hospital, and attend weddings and other family events.

The DeMoulas family has been feuding over the company for years. Arthur T. DeMoulas was ousted as CEO when his cousin Arthur S. DeMoulas gained control of the Board through legal maneuvering. Think of Arthur S. as the greedy, do nothing cousin. Essentially, Arthur S. leads a group of family members who are already gazillionaires but are pissed off because they want to be paid dividends.

Market Basket was already profitable, but in a classic story of corporate greed, the do-nothing cousins want more. In response, the workers of Market Basket are making labor history. Drivers and warehouse workers have been on what can only be called a wildcat strike. Store managers are encouraging customers to boycott their stores. Politicians are lining up to support the boycott.Even the Dropkick Murphys have tweeted their support.

For those of you who think that American companies cannot be changed by collective action on the part of the employees, let Market Basket serve as an example. And for the CEOs of the world, Market Basket workers just showed you the lengths employees will go to defend their leaders if only they are treated with dignity and rewarded for their hard work.

To learn more, check out savemarketbasket.com and the campaign on Facebook.

Carli Stevenson is a BNR guest contributor, as well as a union communications specialist in the Midwest. You can find her on twitter: @gardengn0me

Comments