Into the fourth week, Market Basket employees and customers stand at the crossroads of a showdown for control and power
TEWKSBURY, Mass. (INTELLIHUB) — An unprecedented walkout strike which has lasted over three weeks, backed by employees and customers at Market Basket’s 71 stores, is coming to a head.
The latest development is a communication which was distributed to 700 Market Basket employees by CEOs Felicia Thornton and James Gooch. According to the wearemarketnasket.com website:
Felicia Thornton and James Gooch today are sending out letters via FedEx to the 700 Associates who have been out of work due to their creation of a hostile work environment , their security teams and their replacement workers. These letters are being sent to monthly salaried, weekly salaried and hourly wage associates. This is yet another attempt by the BOD and F&G to divide us and conquer us. The letter reads;
“You have not reported to work in several weeks. Since that time, the company has communicated with you on numerous occasions to request that you return to your role. In these communications, the company has welcomed you back to your position without any consequences. Despite these efforts, you have ignored the company’s repeated offers to return.
We are writing one final time, to invite you to return to work and perform your job obligations. If your role requires that you primarily work at the company’s headquarters or distribution facilities, you must return to such role ready to fulfill your duties by no later than Friday, August 15, 2014. Alternatively, if your job is based in the field, you are required to return to work and contact either of us prior to August 15 to review the work you are performing. Should you choose to ignore either of these directives, the company will consider you to have abandoned your job, thereby ending your employment with the company.
We look forward to your return so that we can resume our efforts to fulfill our customer’s needs.”
The contempt that the corporate board must have towards not only the employees, but the general public who have taken a stand, an unprecedented stand in terms of U.S. labor relations. The voice of the employees, which should negate any claims of job abandonment, have been echoed by the customers. Have the customers abandoned Market Basket – I think not. Like the employees, it’s fair to say the loyal will return once Arthur T. Demoulas is back as CEO.
Although there are hundreds of articles on the Market Basket Revolution, two recent articles are noteworthy. One by the latimes.com titled Market Basket workers, customers rally around beloved CEO after firing provides a good overview of the story by saying:
The Market Basket chain, which has 25,000 employees and 71 stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, was founded by Greek immigrant Arthur Demoulas nearly a century ago.
His two grandsons, Arthur S. Demoulas and Arthur T. Demoulas, have warred over control of the company for decades. In June, Arthur S. gained control of the company board and fired Arthur T., who had been chief executive for eight years and had been managing the company for years before that.
It’s Arthur T. who employees say instituted a profit-sharing plan that allows retirees to walk away with an impressive retirement plan, who gave holiday bonuses, who encouraged grocery baggers to work their way up the corporate ladder to a corner office. It’s Arthur T. who kept prices fair for customers, and who treated suppliers fairly, and who always had a kind word for every customer, employer and supplier he encountered.
Eight middle managers in the corporate office in June asked for the chief executive to be reinstated; they were fired a few weeks later after leading protests about the firing. One rally at company headquarters drew 10,000 employees, customers and other supporters.
The other article at the WashingtonPost.com posted Wednesday, August 13th, 2014, by Daniel Korschun, who has interesting comments at the end of the article, namely:
Should they succeed, it could represent a turning point in how we think about corporate ownership. A corporation might just belong to whoever cares about it the most.
Lastly, here’s an excerpt from the WashingtonPost.com article Who owns Market Basket, really?
In a surprising twist of fate, the protesters may have the Supreme Court on their side. (Just not in the way you might think.) In Citizens United v. FEC and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the court ruled that corporations are covered by the First Amendment and that freedom of religion can be extended to corporations. Cornell Law School professor Lynn Stout has asserted that these rulings solidified the notion that a corporation is an independent entity, similar to a person. She said, “Because of the legal ‘personhood’ of corporations, buying a share in a corporation is like making a contract with the legal ‘person’ that is the company, which is different from buying the company.” In short, the notion that a corporation is simply a giant sole-proprietorship where shareholders have total control is legally untenable.
So if shareholders don’t own the company, who does? Market Basket’s employees, customers and suppliers say they do.
They say their years of hard work and loyalty earn them the right to call some of the shots. Among the most important of these decisions is naming the CEO. Walking through the more than 10,000 protesters at a recent rally, the picket signs and T-shirts I saw were unambiguous: “This is our [expletive] company!” “Artie T. is our CEO.” They love Market Basket and everything they believe it stands for, and they see themselves as a bulwark against marauding shareholders.
You may have gathered by now that the motivations driving the Market Basket protesters are not those of a typical labor dispute. But Market Basket is not a typical company. The protests are possible because Market Basket managers have forged strong relationships with associates, customers and suppliers over a period of years. Each of these groups is loyal to the same core purpose of providing quality low-cost groceries. It may be a simple message, but these groups are highly committed to it.
Like with any struggle, the sides are clearly drawn and the issues are clearly defined. Moreover the public has played a big role in defining what is at stake with Market Basket.
Personally, this struggle represents pure corporate greed and power versus ‘we the people’ and American values.
About the Author:
Avalon is an investigative journalist, writer and strategist for Intellihub News.
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