Grocery workers want their CEO back, and now customers have joined a boycott.
According to The Spreadit, grocery workers and customers are demanding their CEO back at Market Basket in New England. A protest started slowly at the end of June after Arthur T. Demoulas also known as Artie T. and some members of his team were fired. It was part of a push by his longtime rival and cousin Arthur S. Demoulas. The firing was the culminating point of a year-long battle between the two relatives.
Industry analysts say worker revolts at nonunion companies are rare, but what’s happening at Market Basket is particularly unusual because the workers are not asking for higher pay or better benefits. They are demanding the reinstatement of beloved former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas, who workers credit with keeping prices low, treating employees well and guiding the company’s success. The New England grocery store chain is embroiled in a family feud featuring two cousins who have been at odds for decades.
While earlier squabbles between Arthur T. Demoulas and Arthur S. Demoulas were fought in courtrooms, this dispute has spilled into Market Basket stores.
For the past week, warehouse workers have refused to make deliveries to Market Basket’s stores, leaving fruit, vegetable, seafood and meat shelves empty. Workers have held huge protest rallies and organized boycott petitions through social media, attracting thousands of supporters.
It’s not just grocery workers wanting their CEO back, but now customers are defecting to other grocery stores. In some cases, customers have taped receipts from competitors to Market Basket windows. Soraya DeBarros said she walked through a depleted produce department at the Market Basket in West Bridgewater this week:
“We are going to go somewhere else from now on … I’m sad about it because, of course, I want to keep the low prices, but I want to support the workers.”
Despite threats by new management to fire any workers who fail to perform their duties, 300 warehouse workers and 68 drivers have refused to make deliveries. So far, eight supervisors have been fired.
Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University in Worcester, said:
“If you had told me that workers at a grocery store would walk out to save the job of a CEO, I would say that’s incredible. There is usually such a gulf between the worker and the CEO.”
The grocery workers demand that their CEO be reinstated because the feud dates back to the 1970s. However, the most recent round of infighting began last year when Arthur S. Demoulas gained control of the board of directors. Last month, the board fired the CEO, sparking the current uprising.