Mark Lemieux, manager of the Londonderry Market Basket, smiled as he remembered walking in last Saturday’s Old Home Day parade amid cheers and applause for him and dozens of his fellow employees.
“I was walking along the right side of the street thanking people for their support and they were standing and applauding,” he said. “It was just an immense show of support, and we were there to thank them for supporting us. It was a really great thing to see. Because of their support, we’re going to see this through and will win.”
Whether that happens is still up for grabs. Lemieux said 471 part-time employees of the Massachusetts-based grocery chain have seen their hours cut to zero, but in spite of lost hours and lost wages, employees are holding strong in the belief that they will prevail.
“We’re down about 95 percent of business but as you can see we’re open and the doors are open,” Lemieux said. “It’s the customers who through their support are going to other stores, willingly paying higher prices so that we can save our, and their, Market Basket.”
Assistant manager Sean Morse said a Market Basket board meeting took place Monday afternoon. No announcements of any progress have been made.
In an email last week, dated Thursday, Aug. 14, corporate officials through co-Chief Executive Officer Felicia Thornton told store managers, “As has always been the case, Store Directors’ prioritization of full-time associates is a critical element of successfully delivering outstanding customer service…We are not laying off full-time associates.”
Thornton went on to order that all signs, posters or other written material that was not product or price related be taken down. This was in reference to the practice of putting competitors’ receipts in the window.
“Please remove all ‘boycott Market Basket signs’ and clean and remove all painted signs on cases,” Thornton said.
Thornton also ordered the removal of “donation request signs for any associates and truck drivers as well as any items that are blocking docks or preventing deliveries.”
The e-mail was signed by Thornton and co-CEO James Gooch.
Lemieux said he would not comply with the directive. The receipts are still in the windows of the Londonderry store, the “Boycott Market Basket” sign still emblazons a trailer parked in the parking lot and the employees are still on Nashua Road (Route 102) with their signs and getting loud support from motorists and tractor trailers as they drive by.
“Nothing has changed as far as we are concerned until Arthur T. is back as CEO with full authority,” Lemieux said.
The employee walk-out and customer boycott of Market Basket began after Arthur T. DeMoulas was ousted as CEO of the company on June 23. Market Basket warehouse employees and truck drivers soon walked off the job and have subsequently been fired, and store employees have been requesting that customers boycott the stores.
On Sunday, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan worked to try to help ease the impasse.
“As has been reported, Governor Hassan and Governor Patrick met at length with the principal parties from Market Basket on Sunday evening,” William Hinkle, Hassan’s press secretary, said. “Market Basket is a significant business in New Hampshire, and its role as an employer for thousands of dedicated employees and as a provider of affordable groceries for its customers impacts our economy and communities in many ways. This is a private business dispute, but the Governor is hopeful that the leaders at Market Basket will come together and reach a constructive resolution that keeps their workers employed and reduces the impact on consumers and other affected businesses,”
“We will win this thing because we are in the right and what we are doing is the right thing to do. I really believe that it will be soon,” Lemieux said.