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August 14. 2014 9:23PM

Market Basket stores told to remove protest signs


Market Basket employees affixed boycott signs to the downtown Manchester supermarket last month. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

Market Basket CEOs sent an email to their stores Thursday, telling staff to remove all protest and boycott signs. Store managers who are short-staffed due to scheduling cuts said they do not have the time or manpower to take everything down.

Co-CEOs Felicia Thornton and James Gooch asked the managers and staff at the chain’s 71 stores to remove all signs and written material that is not related to products, prices, or information that federal, state and local governments require the business to post.

In addition all “Boycott Market Basket” signs, Thornton and Gooch told the stores to take down “All donation request signage related to any Market Basket Associates, including the Market Basket Warehouse & Truck Driver Fund.”

“To my knowledge, all Market Basket stores received that email,” said Chris Dick, manager of the older Market Basket store on Broadway in Salem.

“We’re working on it, but it might take us a while,” said Dick, who added the stores are short staffed.

For the past month, warehouse and delivery truck drivers have stayed off the job to protest the ousting of former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas, who was fired after years of conflict among the Demoulas family, owners of the privately held supermarket chain. Stores associates have rallied and picketed individual stores for weeks demanding the reinstatement of their former boss.

Meanwhile, empty shelves have triggered a mass migration of Market Basket customers to other supermarkets. But many regular shoppers have returned to the stores to tape their receipts from other grocers to Market Basket’s windows to show their support for workers and Arthur T. Demoulas.

In Hudson, Store Director Arthur Eldridge said he received the email about removing signs and posters.

“It’s all still up,” he said.

Up in Tilton, assistant store director Jeremy Wonser said he did not ask anyone to remove signs because that was not his call.

Wonser said the instructions to remove signs for donations to support co-workers “Says it all” about the company’s head office. But he also said Thornton and Gooch are just trying to do the job they were hired to do.

“They are trying to stop the storm, but it’s coming pretty hard up the coast,” he said. “Everybody, including the customers, believes in the cause.”

Organizers of the worker protests who use the We Are Market Basket web site to disperse information to the chain’s 25,000 workers and 2 million customers also responded to Thornton and Gooch’s

“We call on all stores to put up more signs and pictures,” read a message post Thursday afternoon. “Let’s make bumper stickers available to all of our associates and customers, whether they are boycotting or shopping the aisles.”

btaormina@newstote.com



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