Supermarket Sweet: Thousands of Workers and Customers Protest in Support of Ousted CEO

Protesters holding "Arthur T" signs taunt an occupant of a car driving into a Market Basket Supermarket job fair in Andover, Mass., Monday, Aug. 4, 2014. The company set up a job fair for its workers to replace colleagues who walked off the job to protest the firing of CEO Arthur T. Demoulas. Executives at the troubled Market Basket supermarket chain in New England stepped up their efforts to fight back against a workers' revolt and customer boycott that have paralyzed the company and drawn attention for their unusual demand to reinstate the previous CEO. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)TEWKSBURY, Mass. (AP) — A few thousand workers and customers at the troubled New England supermarket chain Market Basket rallied Tuesday to pressure management to reinstate the company's beloved former chief executive or accept his offer to buy the company.

Workers had expected up to 15,000 employees, customers and supporters at the rally outside a Market Basket store in Tewksbury, Massachusetts.

The family-owned chain has been in turmoil since June, when a board controlled by Arthur S. Demoulas fired his cousin, CEO Arthur T. Demoulas. Hundreds of warehouse workers and drivers have refused to deliver food to the chain's 71 stores for two weeks, leaving store shelves empty and sending customers elsewhere.

Workers hope that Arthur S. Demoulas' side of the family will accept an offer from his cousin to buy the company.

T.J. Cauley said he has been protesting outside his store with other workers on his breaks and days off for the past two weeks. He said he knows he risks losing his job.

"I have concerns, but at the same time I will take the risk because this company has provided me with everything I've needed for the last 11 years," he said. "Artie T. has made the company what it is. He's genuinely interested in the associates as well as the customers."

The rally was the fourth major gathering by workers calling for the reinstatement of Arthur T. Demoulas.

Lisa Hultgren, a customer who has shopped at market basket for 25 years, said she came to the rally to show her support for the workers.

"It's one of the few grocery store chains where you can see the same people working there week after week, year after year," she said. "They're nice people. It's a very small town feeling you get in the stores."

On Monday, the two co-CEOs appointed to replace Arthur T. Demoulas stepped up their efforts to fight back against the workers' revolt and customer boycott.

Felicia Thornton and Jim Gooch said they heard from many employees who were "concerned for their safety" if they attended a job fair, which began Monday and was scheduled to continue through Wednesday. They said they would allow employees to apply for new jobs through email because they feel "associates interested in opportunity should be given an opportunity without fear of intimidation or harassment."

Jack Demoulas, a cousin of Arthur S. Demoulas and Arthur T. Demoulas and the grocery chain's dairy and frozen food director, urged workers on Monday to return to their jobs and let the dueling sides "work this out." He said the protests are hurting the company and have "made a public circus out of a private dispute."

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Denise Lavoie
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