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Market Basket workers rally, urged to 'shut it down' until ousted CEO returns

TEWKSBURY, Mass. — Thousands of Market Basket employees rallied in support of their ousted CEO on Monday and were urged by their leaders to force the closure of stores in several states, including about 30 in New Hampshire, until the CEO returns.

“This is not going to end until you shut it down,” Steve Paulenka, a movement leader from Londonderry, N.H., who was fired Sunday, told workers in a parking lot in a strip mall containing a Market Basket.

Many workers who should have been working instead were out in force at the rally to support the return of fired CEO Arthur T. Demoulas, who, many said, treated his workers like family members.

“We’re going to shut it right down.” said Dan Murray, a grocery clerk at the Market Basket in Seabrook, N.H.

His colleague, Allen Pelletier, the grocery manager there, said he also would heed the call.

“Oh yeah,” Pelletier said. “I have the keys to the store; I can.”

Both planned to stand outside the store rather than return to work.

Last week, the company warned workers that those who abandoned their jobs would lose them. A spokesman Monday didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the rally.

Paulenka said all 15 stores he visited Sunday had fewer customers than normal.

“Every store is down,” he said. “It’s only going to get worse.”

Richard Pirelli, an assistant grocery manager at the Milford, N.H., store, said about 20 store employees came to the rally.

“We’re a little sick today,” Pirelli said.

He urged Market Basket customers to stay away from stores until the dispute is settled.

“We got to hurt ‘em in the wallets,” Pirelli said.

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