Striking Market Basket Workers: Bring the Nice Guy Back. Or Else.

Living in a community where there are two Market Basket grocery stores within a short drive, I have been fascinated and inspired by the courage and commitment of the employees to stand up against corporate greed and demand the return of the former CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas. The saga has now entered its third week, and employees have not backed down with their demands, defying a back to work order from the company’s new co-CEO’s Jim Gooch and Felicia Thornton.

In communities around New England with Market Basket stores, it is not just the employees rallying for the former CEO, customers have also entered into the fray, expressing their support for the beloved former CEO, who not only treated his employees well, but also kept the company’s prices low.

The employee walk-off and subsequent boycott by customers has brought the company to its knees, due ultimately to a long-standing family feud between rival cousins who each own and control a portion of the corporation. Ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas has offered to buy out his cousin Arthur S. Demoulas, but there are reportedly other bidders competing for the once successful grocery chain.

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the confrontation over Arthur T.’s reinstatement “has complicated his bid for the company, according to people close to the process, who were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.”

Despite owning nearly half the company, they said, Arthur T. Demoulas is the only bidder who needs financing to buy it. (Other suitors include national supermarket chains and big investment firms.) But potential lenders are wary of providing financing to him until the stores are up and running.

This echoes the sentiment felt by Market Basket employees, that the new management under Arthur S. Demoulas cares little for the company itself, and its once loyal workers. Instead Arthur S., is looking for the highest bidder to complete a deal without finance issues. But is that in the best interest of the company that flourished under Arthur T. and helped to nourish thousands of low income consumers across New England, who shopped at Market Basket because they were able to get the most for their money.

The New York Times reports, “Some prospective bidders have said that they could squeeze more profits out of the company, since management under Arthur T. Demoulas has shown little inclination to maximize profitability.” Indeed, the corporate greed and avarice wing of the feud cites the fact that Arthur T. “unilaterally rolled out a 4 percent discount on goods within the store late last year, arguing that customers could use the money more than his fellow shareholders.”

Heavens… what was he thinking?

Further complicating the issue of the sale the current Market Basket board “has hired an investment bank to oversee the sales process, is to make a recommendation to shareholders, who will then decide on a course of action.”

Well, the writing is on the wall, isn’t it? No investment bank will side with a philanthropist CEO who cares more about his workers and customers than corporate profit. Forget the fact that even with 4% discount to all customers, the company was raking in profits and everyone was happy. Everyone that is, except the avaricious faction of the Demoulas family.

The longer the Market Basket sage drags on the more difficult it will be for the company to rebound. Contrary to the report in the NYT that the “turnout at Tuesday’s rally may have been disappointing to protesters in terms of numbers” locally the news has stated that this was the workers largest rally to date.

In a time when America’s issues with poverty are so prevalent, there is something so refreshing about a CEO who puts people above profit. Arthur T. Demoulas clearly cared more for Main Street than Wall Street and showed his company to be a cut above so many American corporations who revel in profit and tax cuts.

As the workers continue to ignore the back to work order, we can only say: May the people prevail.

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