The Board of Directors at Market Basket couldn’t have known what would eventually happen after it voted last month to fire CEO Arthur T. Demoulas. The dismissal of the beloved, worker-friendly CEO has led to an all-out uprising by workers at all levels, from cashiers to store managers to truck drivers.
Workers held a massive rally on Monday in Tewksbury, Mass., and have been risking their jobs picketing outside stores all around the region, calling for a boycott. Their only demand: Restore Arthur T. Demoulas as CEO. This kind of loyalty to a boss just isn’t that common anymore. Even more uncommon is the organization with which workers have carried out their uprising.
“From an organizational point of view, this was textbook,” said SEA First Vice President Ken Roos. “They’ve got something like 25,000 employees and estimates of up to 6,000 at the rally on Monday.”
Roos, who has a great deal of organizational experience himself, said it helps that all workers are aligned behind a singular cause.
“The reason they’ve been so successful in their organizing is that they’re all behind Arthur T.,” Roos said. “He’s like a father figure to them.”
Arthur T. Demoulas is regarded as a generous CEO, paying employees well and providing good benefits and profit sharing. But he has also presided over a period in which the grocery chain has expanded and grown to a multi-billion dollar business known for its low prices.
“People don’t like that the board ousted somebody that was favorable to the employees, customers and shareholders simultaneously,” Roos said.
Roos said that he’s joined the boycott of the stores and has joined workers on the picket line.
“I’ve been standing there asking people to join the boycott, and asking people not to cross the picket line,” he said.
SEA member Gloria Andrews, a longtime Market Basket shopper, has also joined the boycott.
“I think we should support the workers as much as we can,” she said. “I brought them ice cream yesterday and I brought them muffins today.”
Andrews said it’s unusual for workers to risk so much to support a CEO.
“I just think they’re so brave,” she said. “I’m terrified for them. They’ve put so much into it.”
She said she’s a bit surprised that workers have been able to garner so much support.
“I respect them so much that they’ve been able to do this,” she said. “I just think they love their boss so much, and they’re terrified of this new regime.”
Roos said it makes sense why workers are standing up for their CEO: He has treated them well.
“You don’t find too many places where management is that loyal to the employees,” he said. “That’s how we’d like all businesses to work. But all you need is a new boss to come in and ruin everything.”
If you’d like to support workers, we’ve been told they appreciate support on the picket line, along with water and snacks. Additionally, you can sign one of several petitions (here and here) in support of restoring Arthur T. Demoulas as CEO.