Market Basket was not a worker’s revolution

market basket rallyIt began as an epic family feud with seemingly everyone in New England taking sides. CNN reports, “The dispute began in June when the company’s board replaced [Arthur T.] Demoulas, who was beloved for his leadership but had long feuded with his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, over control of the family-owned company. Arthur S. and his family controlled 50.5% of the shares of the company.”

After the ouster of Arthur T. as CEO of Market Basket, management and employees walked out in what some were calling a worker’s revolution. This revolt led to deliveries being halted, shelves being empty, and hours for part-time employees being slashed. Customers were asked by the protesting workers to boycott the nearly empty stores.

In late August the standoff ended, with the ousted CEO buying the company for an estimated $1.5 billion. While the deal has not yet been finalized, Arthur T. and his management team would return to the chain immediately. He addressed some of his employees and supporters the day after the purchase, telling them, “As I stand before you I’m in awe of what you all accomplished. You have demonstrated to the world that it is a person’s moral obligation and social responsibility to protect a culture that provides an honorable and dignified place in which to work.”

While this is being seen by some as a major victory for the power of a united work force in bringing about change at a corporate level; CNN reports, “It is believed to have lost several million in potential revenue daily.” Adding that such a loss is “a major blow in the grocery industry, whose profit margins are low.
The situation also hurt employees. Management repeatedly threatened to terminate workers who did not show up, but held off while negotiations for a sale were ongoing.”

During this debacle, I attempted to remain neutral, siding with neither the corporate board, which reportedly knew beforehand that firing Arthur T. would result in a worker revolt; nor the employees who seemed eager to risk the future of the company in hopes of making a point to the corporate board.

Truth be told, this was not a worker’s revolution, it was a weird double-hostage standoff situation that looked like both the board and the employees were threatening to sacrifice the business in the name of Arthur T. Demoulas. The board was only able to save face, by selling the company to the ousted CEO, and the situation was only resolved because the former CEO cared enough about the family business to keep it from being completely destroyed.

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