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Rindge

Employees back Market  Basket CEO

  • Market Basket employees gathered to collect signitures in support of the company's current CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas on Tuesday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Market Basket employees gathered to collect signitures in support of the company's current CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas on Tuesday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Market Basket employees gathered to collect signitures in support of the company's current CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas on Tuesday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Market Basket employees gathered to collect signitures in support of the company's current CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas on Tuesday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Market Basket employees gathered to collect signitures in support of the company's current CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas on Tuesday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Market Basket employees gathered to collect signitures in support of the company's current CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas on Tuesday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Market Basket employees gathered to collect signitures in support of the company's current CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas on Tuesday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Market Basket employees gathered to collect signitures in support of the company's current CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas on Tuesday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Market Basket employees gathered to collect signitures in support of the company's current CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas on Tuesday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Market Basket employees gathered to collect signitures in support of the company's current CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas on Tuesday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Market Basket employees gathered to collect signitures in support of the company's current CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas on Tuesday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Market Basket employees gathered to collect signitures in support of the company's current CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas on Tuesday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

RINDGE — Signs reading “Save Market Basket” greeted customers as they walked into the Rindge store Tuesday. Each time a customer approached the doors, there was an employee of the store there — on his or her own time — holding a clipboard, asking for support in keeping the chain’s current chief executive officer, Arthur T. Demoulas.

The board of directors for the New England chain will meet today to make a decision on whether or not to oust the current CEO for his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas. Members of the board who support Arthur T. Demoulas have been delaying meeting with a newly appointed board, which favors Arthur S. Demoulas, until an injunction signed on June 28 by Linda Giles of the Suffolk Superior Court forced the issue, according to published reports.

The pending decision has roused store employees to come out in support of Arthur T. Demoulas, or “Artie T,” as they refer to him. While the board is set to deliberate, there has been a movement among Market Basket employees and customers in support of keeping the status quo. Not only have Twitter hashtags, such as #SaveMarketBasket and #SaveArtieT cropped up, but petitions, both online and in print, have begun making the rounds.

Employees were out in force Tuesday at local Market Baskets, and employees were constantly checking with other area stores by phone to see how their own signature gathering was going. Employees at stores in Massachusetts and New Hampshire were collecting signatures on a petition pleading with the board to keep Arthur T. Demoulas as the CEO of the company. The employees took their own time away from work in support of their CEO.

“He supports the employees of the company. He does what he can to keep the prices low and give back what he can,” Angela Bangston of Jaffrey, who has worked for Market Basket in Rindge for two years. “So far, it has been overwhelming support from both customers and employees.”

The Rindge store employees had collected more than 2,500 signatures from customers at the Rindge location, and more than 70,000 across all Market Basket stores as of Tuesday evening, said Bangston. The signatures will be delivered to the board this morning before they begin their meeting, she said, in hopes that it sways the board in Arthur T. Demoulas’ favor.

John Phelps of Winchendon, Mass., dairy manager at the Rindge Market Basket, said Tuesday while collecting signatures he is confident Arthur T. Demoulas will take care of him and his family.

“I’ve worked in this company for 18 years. Over the last five years, since he’s been CEO, I’ve never seen anything like the giving back they’ve been doing for the employees, rewarding them for their hard work. His values have shown through the entire company. It’s allowed me to provide for my family and my two children,” Phelps said.

Jessica Fortier of New Ipswich, who has worked for Market Basket for nine years, said she’s concerned about her benefits being reduced and prices going up at local stores under a new company management. “It doesn’t sound good what they want to do. If the other side takes over and they want to take away our benefits, and raise prices for the customers, I’m probably not going to work here anymore,” she said.

Fortier said Arthur T. Demoulas takes a personal interest in the company and the employees, which is unusual among CEOs.

“I actually met Mr. Demoulas twice. The first time we were talking, I didn’t even know he was Mr. Demoulas. We just had a talk about basketball. I transferred to the Swanzey Market Basket for awhile and saw him there, and he remembered me. I mean, 22,000 employees and he remembered me. That means a lot.”

Brennan Flewitt, of Winchendon, Mass., who works at the Rindge store, said he fully supports Arthur T. Demoulas’ leadership and the atmosphere created by it.

“All he does is take care of my family and everything I’ve known in the 18 years that I’ve been here,” Flewitt said, referring to his work at Market Basket. “I think it would be a shame to vote out a CEO that’s done absolutely nothing but take care of his customers and his employees. I would like this board that is voting to really consider what they’re voting on. They’re not voting on control of the company, they’re voting on the lives of the employees and the customers. It’s a way of life at Market Basket. I remember being a kid and stepping on the orange squares and pretending they were lava. I’ve been here for a while, I think it would be a shame to change anything that he’s done. It would be tragedy to ruin what the culture of this store has become over the years.”

The Demoulas family infighting is not something new. The family has been split down two sides — those descended from George Demoulas and those descended from Telemachus Demoulas. The brothers purchased the store from their parents as a small grocery, and it was at that point the store grew into a chain across Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The two brothers ran the business together until George Demoulas died in 1971.

In 1990, George Demoulas’ descendants claimed Telemachus had defrauded them out of company stock. In 1994, it was ruled that George Demoulas’ family had indeed been defrauded out of nearly $500 million, and George Demoulas’ family took control of 51 percent of the company stock, according to the company’s history on mydemoulas.net.

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

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