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July 24. 2014 3:56AM

'Biggest' Market Basket protest planned Friday

Market Basket workers will hold what organizers hope is their "biggest and final" rally tomorrow, but are prepared to continue protests should the grocery chain's board not heed their calls to reinstate former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.

Tomorrow morning's rally in Tewksbury, Mass., the third in a week, will precede a board meeting in Boston scheduled for that afternoon.

Protest organizers hope tomorrow will be the "tipping point in making the board see what the hell is going on here," said Steve Paulenka, a protest organizer and former Market Basket facilities and operations supervisor fired Sunday for alleged "significant actions that harmed the company."

"Hopefully they will do the right thing Friday," he said. "They always say they have a fiduciary responsibility to the company."

The company, meanwhile, has hired J. B. Hunt Transport Services to make store deliveries after Market Basket warehouse workers and truck drivers walked off their jobs last week, leaving many store shelves bare, a spokesman confirmed. It has also hired a security firm to accompany the drivers.

Market Basket store employees, who still are getting paid, yesterday continued protests outside stores amid calls for a boycott and a dwindling customer base.

Market Basket "absolutely" is taking a big financial hit, said grocery analyst Andrew Wolf of BB&T Capital Markets in Boston. "The stores are still paying labor, which is the No. 1 cost, still paying the rent, still paying the utility bills and still paying the property taxes," Wolf said. "The determinant of whether the market share loss is permanent or not is really time."

In other developments yesterday, Market Basket workers set up a gofundme.com page to raise money for the warehouse workers and drivers. "We're not looking for customers to do anything, and we're not excluding them either," said Paulenka, noting the idea is to solicit funds from the 24,000 other Market Basket employees willing to "share a little of the burden."



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