Store manager backs Artie T.

Market Basket struggle continues

The Rindge Market Basket has perhaps never been cleaner. With customers scarce in the aisles, Rindge Market Basket Manager Bill Dube has put the associates that work for the store to work cleaning, repainting, and doing general chores as the shelves sit empty of perishables, and employees and customers alike await the outcome of a stalemate between supporters of the company’s former CEO and its current leadership.

Market Basket’s former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas has offered to return to work immediately, while negotiating a possible purchase of the percentage of shares owned by other family members.

According to a statement issued on Sunday on behalf of Arthur T. Demoulas through a spokeswoman, “Arthur T. Demoulas and his side of the family have been working around the clock to pursue their offer to buy the 50.5 percent of shares in [Demoulas Super Markets] they do not own for a full and fair price. As part of his proposal, Arthur T. has also offered to move immediately to return to work in advance of the completion of the stock purchase and work to bring back his full team to stabilize and begin to restore the business.”

The statement continued to say that Arthur T. was prepared to take up the mantle again as quickly as midnight on Sunday. “These steps are critical at this point and are in the best interests of Associates, customers, vendors and shareholders. Time is of the essence. Arthur T. is hopeful, but resolution depends on the response of the other shareholders in order for an agreement to be reached,” the statement reads.

In a statement issued by the Market Basket Board on Sunday, through their own spokesperson, the board acknowledged the offer but did not accept.

“Demoulas Market Basket is considering strategic alternatives directly with parties in private conversations. We encourage the B shareholders, including Arthur T. Demoulas, to continue providing constructive proposals. Following the Board’s evaluation of all of offers, it will convey its recommendations to the company’s shareholders who have the final decision as to which strategic alternative, if any, to accept. The Board fully supports the current management team in their efforts to ensure that Market Basket’s normal business operations resume immediately for the benefit of its customers, associates, vendors and communities,” the statement reads.

Dube agreed with the statement issued on behalf of Arthur T. Demoulas that there is a need for a decision to be made sooner, rather than later. Even if the warehouses were fully back up and running, and trucks back to making their regular deliveries tomorrow, it would take some time for the local Market Basket to fully restock its shelves, Dube said. Usually, the store receives regular deliveries daily, but those stores are coming from the company’s warehouses, which can take between two and four weeks to order and stock some items. It may take at least that long to get stores back to the status quo, even when operations return to normal, he said.

In the meantime, shelves at the local Rindge Market Basket remain empty in perishable sections, such as produce, the bakery, meat and fish, and run low on dairy as the stores enter a third week of warehouse workers and truck delivery drivers having walked out on the job. According to published reports, 68 of the managers of the chain’s 71 stores have signed a petition stating that they will resign if made to work under any CEO but Arthur T. Demoulas. Dube said that he, too, has signed the petition.

“I think we’re all loyal to the one man, and if he doesn’t run the company, I think something drastic is going to happen. We’re still trying to get Arthur T. back in,” said Dube in a phone interview on Monday. “He volunteered to come back in with his management team. He sees what’s happening with the company and wants to get back up and running. That’s what we’re hoping for, too.”

What’s happening in Rindge

Dube said that the store is still lacking in perishables, and every day, he sends out a request for groceries, but what once would have been daily deliveries are now scarce, with only three trucks delivering groceries to Rindge since the walkout first started. Customers have been finding alternative venues to shop, either because of the lack of product on the shelves or out of solidarity with employees, who have been encouraging customers to show their support for Arthur T. Demoulas by boycotting the store.

“Our volume is down about 85 percent,” said Dube, when asked about how many customers the Rindge store has seen since the boycott began. “It’s a big cut.”

With so few customers in the store, and few deliveries to stock, but still a full staff to keep employed, Dube said employees have been finding other things to allow employees to continue earning their paycheck. “We’re doing busy work, but we’re running out of busy work to do,” said Dube. “Painting, cleaning, washing the shelves, we’re doing whatever we can to keep people busy. We’re taking the wire racks steam and cleaning them, cleaning all the frozen cases and dairy cases, taking the food off the shelves and washing the shelves. Every case in the store has been stripped and cleaned.”

And while the battle between employees and leadership continues, other local grocery vendors have been seeing a surplus as boycotting or dissatisfied customers seek fully stocked grocery shelves elsewhere. In a telephone interview Monday, Jeffrey Gulko, the manager of public affairs for Shaw’s Supermarket, said that for more than two weeks now, the grocery chain has seen an increase in customers, resulting in stores having to accommodate the increase in demand by shuffling associates’ hours and making additional grocery orders. That influx has remained consistent for the past two weeks, he said.

Hirings and firings

Market Basket gave striking workers until yesterday to report back to work or risk permanently losing their jobs. In a final point, the company took out a full-page ad in the Boston Globe, calling for applicants at a job fair held yesterday, today and tomorrow that is seeking to hire store directors and assistant directors in eastern Massachusetts and New Hampshire, as well as associates, grocery and perishable buyers in Tewksbury, Mass., and Andover, Mass. Fairs will be held today from 4 to 8 p.m. for current Market Basket associates and on Wednesday from 1 to 8 p.m. for the general public at the Market Basket Andover IT Communications Center.

Today, Market Basket employees are planning yet another protest rally outside of the Market Basket headquarters in Tewksbury. The website wearemarketbasket.com, which employees have been using to rally, referred to the job fair as a “farce” and “scare tactic,” to convince striking warehouse workers and store managers to back down.

Dube said he’s not frightened. “I’ve been with this company 43 and a half years,” he said. “If they think they can find someone to do the job better than me, then God bless them.”

Dube said that a crowd of employees from the Rindge store are planning to attend the rally, including himself, and have rented a bus to transport approximately 40 of them from the Rindge Market Basket to the rally, with others going in their own cars.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ex. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaari.

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