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July 17. 2014 2:17PM

Market Basket mutiny threatened; company says it can't rehire beloved CEO


Market Basket in downtown Manchester is shown Wednesday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

The newly hired leaders of Market Basket said they don't have the ability to rehire longtime chief-executive officer Arthur T. Demoulas and accused some of the revolting employees of disrespect.

The two spoke in a statement that ran in Thursday's edition of the Boston Herald. The statement was issued by Felicia Thornton and Jim Gooch, who were appointed to fulfill the role of Demoulas after he was fired on June 23.

“This morning, several employees informed us that they require an answer on their demands by the end of day (Thursday),” the statement reads, according to the Boston Herald.

“When we attempted to acknowledge their concern and respond on the status of the request, these employees instead left the meeting. We also are aware of a memo they issued, although it was not immediately given to us by these employees. This behavior is not appropriate nor is it in keeping with Market Basket's culture of respect.”

The two said they had already communicated the demand to the board chairman, Keith Cowan.

In a post on the We Are Market Basket.com website, a Market Basket employee said they had been waiting for a week to get a response to their demand that Demoulas be reinstated.

“We think it is inappropriate and disrespectful to keep us waiting for a week for that answer,” said Tom Trainor, who did not indentify himself further, other than “41 years of living and learning Market Basket Culture.”

He wrote that workers are termed “associates,” not employees, at Market Basket. He asked Thornton and Gooch to not refer to Market Basket as “our company.” And he asked them to not reference the culture of Market Basket.

Full text of earlier story continues below.


Market Basket mutiny threatened

The manager of a New Hampshire Market Basket store said his store would run out of most perishable products in three days if the remaining workers at Market Basket headquarters abandon their jobs, a possibility in a looming corporate showdown.

A rarely seen revolution of middle-level employees comes to a head Thursday, a deadline set by corporate workers and store managers to have Arthur T. Demoulas restored as company chief executive officer.

Demoulas and two other top executives were fired June 23.

According to a memo posted on wearemarketbasket.com, company associates expect a group meeting by 4:30 p.m. Thursday to answer their demand.

“We will not work for anyone but ATD,” the memo, shown below, reads.



Market Basket memo

Peter Gulezian, manager of the Manchester Market Basket, expects workers at the corporate offices in Tewksbury, Mass., to walk off the job if the demand is not met.

Managers of all 72 New England Market Basket stores endorse the effort, Gulezian said. And while managers will stay on the job and keep stores open, he questions how long the stores will be able to operate.

“We would not be able to receive distribution, we would not be able to transmit orders,” he said. “The stores would basically run out of product.”

The first to go would be perishables such as dairy, meat and produce, he said. The store will run out of most perishables in three days, he said.

“We will continue to keep every store open and provide customer service as best we can,” Gulezian said. “It depends on what decision comes down.”

The standoff intensifies the crisis that developed for the tightly owned company in late June, when a reshuffled board of directors fired Demoulas. Also shown the door that day were Bill Marsden, director of operations, and Joe Rockwell, vice president of grocery sales and merchandising.

Remaining employees started an offensive last week. They established the website. They started giving interviews to the media, some in the corporate offices.

And they held an improptu meeting last week with Demoulas’ two replacements. In the meeting, corporate workers told Demoulas’ replacements they would no longer obey them until they transmit the message to rehire Demoulas, said operations supervisor Joe Schmidt in an interview Monday on WBZ Radio’s Nightside program.

The board has replaced Demoulas with Felicia Thornton and James Gooch. Gooch is a former CEO of RadioShack. Thornton was the former head at Knowledge Universe, a private education company.

“We felt the co-CEOs (Thornton and Gooch), they really want to strip mine this company,” Schmidt said in the interview. “Greed certainly appears to be the motivating factor in this.”

Efforts to reach a company spokesman on Wednesday were unsuccessful. On Wednesday, the Boston Globe ran a statement from Thornton and Gooch.

“We understand this has been a very emotional time for the organization,” they said in the statement. “We are trying to be respectful as employees work through the challenges of the transition.”

Demoulas lost his job after his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, gained control of the board of directors. The two have long differed over the company direction.

Gulezian said he’s confused about the message coming from the new company leaders. The leaders said they’re not going to change anything. But if that was the case, why did they fire Arthur T. Demoulas and the two other executives? he said.

Meanwhile, the company hasn’t opened a new store in a year, and his workers can’t get responses from Tewksbury for requests such as hardship withdrawls from profit sharing accounts.

Although Thornton and Gooch have said they would visit all the stores, neither has approached him, Gulezian said. He said Arthur T. always visited the Manchester store.

“He knows my wife’s name, my kids’ names. He would talk about personal things with people,” Gulezian said.

mhayward@unionleader.com



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