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August 04. 2014 8:30PM

Market Basket job fair proves a quiet event


Protestors outside of today's job fair in Andover, Mass. (Barbara Taormina)

ANDOVER, Mass. — Market Basket held a job fair on Monday for employees who want to move up in the company, and nobody came.

“There was no question in our minds that nobody was coming to this,” said company controller Mike King, one of a couple hundred employees who showed up not to attend the job fair, but to protest the event held at the company’s perishable distribution center.

Market Basket had set Monday as a deadline for workers to return to their stores, warning that anyone who wasn’t on the job ready to unload trucks and stock shelves would be fired.

The job fair was presented as a chance for employees to replace supervisors and managers who have interrupted deliveries to the chain’s 71 stores by calling in sick and attending rallies and protests demanding the reinstatement of former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas. “I think they were just trying to separate us,” said Richard Fichera, a district deli and seafood supervisor who has 34 years invested in the company.

“No true Market Basket employee would ever do that,” he said.

The only traffic in and out of the distribution center appeared to be members of Market Basket management who work in the building.

Workers standing outside dubbed the event a “job farce” and said it was a scare tactic with a divide-and-conquer edge.

“We have a culture, and we are a family,” said Grocery Buyer Todd Peters. “We know if anything happens to any of us, we’ll be taken care of, and we don’t have to ask.”

Co-CEOs Felicia Thorton and Jim Gooch sent out a last-minute message offering associates, who wanted to apply for jobs but were worried about safety, the option of emailing their résumés to the corporate office.

Protesters dismissed the claim that the company had heard from many workers who wanted to come, but were afraid to cross the picket line.

“We are a very respectful, united workforce,” said Peters. “We pride ourselves on that. If someone gets excited, we calm them right down.”

Monday’s protests followed a Sunday night offer from Arthur T. Demoulas to step in and manage the company as he negotiates to buy out the 50.5 percent of the company owned by a rival side of the Demoulas family. Decades of bitter infighting led to Arthur T. Demoulas being fired by the company’s board of directors in June.

Workers who are fiercely loyal to Arthur T. Demoulas began the rallies and protests to bring back their boss two weeks ago. So far, neither side has shown any signs of backing down.

“People are getting a little weary, a little tired and a little angry,” said Seabrook resident Nancy Lewis, a customer who came to picket the job fair with her neighbor, Betsy Coggins. “But you have to regroup and continue the fight,” said Lewis.

Another large rally of workers and customers is planned for this morning at the Market Basket store in Stadium Plaza in Tewksbury, Mass.

btaormina@newstote.com



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