With the recent ouster of former Market Basket chief executive officer (CEO) Arthur T. DeMoulas, employees have rallied at the Tewksbury, Mass., Market Basket store and have brought their cause to other Market Basket stores throughout the region.
According to Kevin Denaro, 21, a two-year employee of Market Basket who works in the seafood /deli department at the Garden Lane store in Londonderry, he and other employees went to the Tewksbury rally on Monday and picked up a sign that read “Our Boss the Only Boss ATD.” He was joined by Brittany Roche, 24, a deli employee who has worked at the Londonderry Market Basket for nine years. Her sign read, “Our Boss the Only Boss” and sported a picture of Arthur T. DeMoulas.
“Don’t come back until he comes back!” Roche told the driver of a passing car, who honked her horn in support.
Employees holding placards were outside the entrance of the store asking customers to boycott Market Basket to send the corporate officials a message.
“The final message of the rally was to ask customers to not come back until (Arthur T.) comes back,” Roche said.
DeMoulas was fired several weeks ago and his cousin Arthur S. DeMoulas installed two co-CEOs, James Gooch and Felicia Thornton, to replace him. This week, eight long-term corporate officials, Mike Kettenbach Jr., Tom Trainor, Tom Gordon, Steve Paulenka, Jim Lacourse, Joe Schmidt, Dean Joyce, and Joe Garon, were fired, some getting the news by courier.
The Kettenbach who lost his job is the son of Michael L. Kettenbach, principal of Pillsbury Realty, the developer of Woodmont Commons and head of RMD Retail Management and Development.
“Shelves are getting really empty but we want our boss back,” Denaro said. “He’s down to earth, he’s got a ton of money and he came up to me in my department and I said, ‘It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, sir,’ and I took off my gloves and he shook my hand and he started talking about the company for a little bit. Then he started talking about my personal life and my family and my activities outside of school, and he talked about down to earth stuff like skateboarding. He cares about his employees and he takes care of us.”
Denaro added that Arthur T. kept prices low.
“I’ve never seen Arthur S. He doesn’t come in the stores,” Roche said.
Produce manager Kevin Bean, a 26-year employee, said most of the employees have been around “40, 50 years. I’m a baby at 26 years. People love working here and the way it is to work here, and that’s going to change if Arthur T. doesn’t come back.”
“We’re not looking for more money, this isn’t a labor dispute, we just want our boss back,” Bean continued. “We are in the customer business and we sell a few groceries, and that’s Arthur T.’s philosophy. These other people – it’s all about money.”
“We demand that he be reinstated as President and CEO with full authority. It’s non-negotiable,” store manager Mark Lemieux said.
Lemieux said all 72 store managers are in agreement with that point.
“This is not an organized labor type dispute, this is a grass roots effort by 25,000 Market Basket employees to have their boss back,” Lemieux said. “Eight of my mentors have been fired. I could lose my job. One person lost his job by courier – he got an envelope. Arthur T. would never have done something like that.”
Lemieux said that Thursday, July 17, at 4:30 p.m. was the deadline for the board to reinstate Arthur T. and it didn’t happen. Instead, the board did nothing.
“We told them that a no action was the same as a ‘no.’ Last Friday, three distribution center staff and all the truck drivers walked off the job together and they won’t be coming back until Arthur T. DeMoulas is returned as the president of the company,” Lemieux said.
Back outside in the nearly 90-degree heat, Denaro said he knows he may lose his job.
“But I don’t care, because if Arthur T. doesn’t come back, they’re probably going to sell off the company and I’ll lose it anyway,” Denaro said.