Have you been following thestrange labor fuck-tussle over the corporate leadership of New England regional grocery chain Market Basket? In June, the supermarket's board of directors fired CEO Arthur T. Demoulas, in the midst of a bigass family feud -- sorry, a "leadership fight" -- between him and his cousin, the conveniently named Arthur S. Demoulas. Workers and middle management folks siding with Arthur T. walked off the job to protest his firing (despite our Sally Field pic there, Market Basket doesn't have a union), and customers boycotted as well.


And why are people getting all het up over a change of CEOs? Pretty much because Arthur T. is the closest thing available to a Frank Capra movie millionaire -- he did profit sharing, paid people to go to school, provided excellent benefits, and made their 401ks whole after a stock market "correction." Arthur T. paid people a living wage, and then some:

Under Arthur T.’s stewardship, employees have been relatively well-compensated. Manager pay often climbs above six figures after years of service. Cashiers with experience can make over $40,000, and full-time clerks start at $12 an hour, the Boston Globe reports. According to U.S. Department of Labor numbers, the annual mean wage for grocery store cashiers throughout the country is $21,370. [...]

In addition, the company matches about 15 percent of annual pay to a retirement fund, and regular, substantial bonuses are awarded throughout the course of the year -- which is a significant boon to their quality of life, workers tell me. Outside the Somerville store, one employee said she’s worried about what she'll do if those bonuses disappear under new Market Basket leadership, particularly around Christmastime. Another Somerville employee named Jessica, who works behind the customer service window, said she’s anxious that the board of directors might take away her $1,000-per-semester stipend to University Massachusetts Boston, which three of her co-workers also receive.

Arthur S., on the other hand, is more of a Mr. Potter kind of guy who sought to "funnel an extra $250 million of Market Basket takings to its nine family shareholders," which for some reason the workers thought didn't bode so well for their own quality of life, the selfish sumbitches. So when Arthur T. was fired for not being a big enough bastard for the sake of a little extra profit, out they went.

And since many of those who went out work in the company's warehouses and distribution system, the stores have been mostly empty, looking like Soviet-era Romanian shops, only without the lines of people queued up for stale bread. Part-time employees have had no work, so they've been sent home, too.

So now, the Powers That Be, co-CEOs Felicia Thornton and James Gooch, have sent a letter to the walked-off-but-technically-not-striking employees, telling them in carefully-framed terms that they have until Friday to get back to work, or they will no longer be working at Market Basket:

“We are writing one final time, to invite you to return to work and perform your job obligations,” the letter says. “If your role requires that you primarily work at the company’s headquarters or distribution facilities, you must return to such role ready to fulfill your duties no later than Friday, August 15, 2014. Alternatively, if your job is based in the field, you are required to return to work and contact either of us prior to August 15 to review the work you are performing. Should you choose to ignore either of these directives, the company will consider you to have abandoned your job, thereby ending your employment with the company.”

Bob Young, an employment attorney interviewed by the Boston Globe, helpfully explains that the letter is framed as “a way of saying the employee resigned rather than was terminated.” That's some pretty smart letter-writing, Market Basket! So if people get canned because of this, they are unlikely to be able to collect unemployment, seeing as how they just abandoned their posts like irresponsible teenagers or something.

There's still the possibility that the dispute could be resolved by Arthur T. buying out the rest of the family, at which point presumably everyone would cheer like at the end of Norma Rae and there'd never be any unhappiness again. Also, we have been advised that our grant application to write labor history has been turned down.

[Boston Globe / Slate]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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