CEO firing pits people vs. profits

In the world of retail stores — and, some would argue, in every universe we currently exist within — the almighty dollar rules. That appears to be the driving force behind the recent decision made by the Market Basket Board of Directors to relieve longtime, beloved CEO Arthur T. Demoulas of his position and install a pair of officials more closely aligned with company’s goals in his place. Over the years, Market Basket has been equally lauded for its low prices and for the competitive pay and benefits its employees enjoy. With the beneficent “Artie T.” no longer at the helm, many employees and customers alike fear that one or both of those things will change — and not for the better.

At company headquarters in Tewksbury, Mass., and at locations around New Hampshire — including right here in Rindge — employees have rallied in support of Artie T.; warehouse personnel have stopped delivering shipments of fresh goods to their stores, and many shelves sit empty with little to no replenishment in sight. And as employees walk off the job and picket in front of stores, asking customers to boycott Market Basket, several of them have been fired and replaced.

At times like these, the issue of workers’ rights bubbles to the surface. Are employees — who in some cases are in entry-level, easily replaceable positions — entitled to keep their jobs if they leave their posts and attend a rally, without the benefit of a union to protect them? Are they entitled to expect the same level of pay and benefits they’ve grown accustomed to, even when there is a change in the direction the company is taking? It’s obviously beneficial for upper management to listen to feedback from their employees, but ultimately the decision-making falls to the bosses, and if they feel they need to go in a different direction from the past, that’s just how it goes, it seems.

Maybe, though, this is an issue that transcends the scope of workers’ rights and the things that can be regulated by rules and laws and unions. Maybe this is a case of common human decency versus the bottom line, people versus profits. Is it worth seeing someone’s quality of life suffer in order to make more money? Those employees who have walked off the job in support of Artie T. certainly don’t think so; they’re risking their jobs with the hopes that customers will feel the same way. Working at Market Basket was like being part of a family, they said, and now that family is falling apart with the departure of Artie. T.

No matter which side of the issue you’re on, there’s an easy way to weigh in: Vote with your wallet. Break the picket line and spend your dollars at Market Basket, or take your business elsewhere. Either way, the future of that family may be in your hands.

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