Standing in the heat of Saturday afternoon, several Market Basket customers held placards and joined in the fight that store employees have with the board of directors, demanding the return of ousted Chief Executive Officer Arthur T. DeMoulas.
“We’re just customers in support of ‘Bring My Market Basket Back,” customer Jane Troy said outside the Londonderry store. “We’re depressed. The stores like Hannaford and the others have empty shelves too because the employees of Market Basket are asking shoppers to boycott Market Basket. The other stores are now faced with increased numbers of shoppers and they’re running out of stuff.”
According to Troy, customer participation in the boycott had started that day.
“We’ve been to all the other protests in Tewksbury (Massachusetts). Everybody knows somebody who either works at Market Basket or had worked at Market Basket themselves. This is all about people and people caring for other people,” Troy said.
The customers said they had seen Arthur S. DeMoulas on a television news broadcast refusing to answer a reporter’s questions and also refusing to look at a customer who was trying to deliver a petition.
“That was just rude,” protesting customer Dot Mattson said.
Troy walked over to the front window of the store and pointed out receipts from other stores taped on it.
“This is what we call the Wall of Shame,” customer Yvonne Debro said. “Shame on the board for creating a situation where customers are shopping somewhere else. If they don’t do what we want, they won’t get us back.”
“One good thing about this is they can’t fire us,” Debro added.
Inside, store manager Mark Lemeiux said the employees are standing firm.
“This started a week ago today and we are still committed that we want Arthur T. DeMoulas reinstated as CEO with full authority, and it is still non-negotiable,” Lemeiux said.
Since then, Arthur T., as he is referred to by employees, made an offer to buy the remaining shares in the company.
“From what I gather, what Arthur T. did was put on the table to buy the remaining shares of the company that his side of the family doesn’t own, and the board said that they would seriously consider the offer,” Lemieux said.
Lemieux said the Arthur T. side of the family currently owns 49.5 percent, and the offer was to buy Arthur S. DeMoulas side of the family’s 50.5 percent of the company.
In 1912, a strike occurred in the Lawrence, Mass., mills, known as the Bread and Roses strike, where 25,000 non-union workers walked off the job at the same time, based on actions of the company. Now in 2014, 25,000 Market Basket employees, all non-union, have walked off the job as well.
“That was a little different. They were in protest against the company,” Lemieux said. “We are in protest for our company, to get a good man back. They were mad because their wages were hurt; we’re trying to protect our wages, profit sharing and benefits. It’s up to the board right now and hopefully they saw this rebellion and they would seriously reconsider their position.”
Lemieux said a lot of the perishable products that have not sold at the Londonderry Market Basket will have to be thrown out, but some were sent to a food bank before they could spoil.
“We sent a lot to the New Hampshire Food Bank,” he said. “They have a big enough facility and they had a refrigerated truck that could come down. They came right down and were here within the hour and picked it up.”
No word on the Market Basket board’s decision on the Arthur T. offer was available as of press time.