Market Basket: How the Community Rallied and Created Change

by Michelline-Kiezer-Roles

If you recall the summer of 2014, and were living in New England, one thing will come to mind, and no, it’s not the beach or the weather; it’s the protests that occurred in support for Market

Basket CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas. Arthur T. Demoulas was greatly loved by his employees and when the Board of Directors fired him, the employees were angry. Employees at all levels of the company either resigned or took part in protests. The protests eventually expanded to customers who boycotted shopping at Market Basket until Arthur T. was reinstated in the company. I remember having to shop at other supermarkets and going to three different stores just to buy affordable groceries. Market Basket by far has the best prices. Other supermarket chains have just as good products, but there’s just something about Market Basket…and the community understands that.

So why did 25,000 employees, 7,000 vendors, and millions of citizens in the community stand behind this CEO? Well, Arthur T. is the son of one of the Demoulas’ brothers, who began the supermarket chain in 1916. Arthur T. was not the typical CEO. He knew his employees names, birthdays, and important facts about them (Launchpad, 2015). Despite being a millionaire CEO, Arthur T. focused his efforts on making Market Basket an exceptional place for people to work. His employees care about him because he truly cares about them and their families. He values his workers and treats them fairly.

The Market Basket employees around New England and their respective communities stood together to fight. What were they fighting for? Benefits, fair treatment, fair wages, and to escape working under a “corporation”. For many of the employees trying to make a living at a “minimum wage” position, not only were their jobs at stake, but their way of life as well …and they were not going down without a fight.

The community strongly advocated for Arthur T. to return to his leadership position within Market Basket. Employees were scared that the Board of Directors, who included his cousin, Arthur S., were going to sell the company and they were going to lose not only their benefits, but the family atmosphere they cherished (O’Neil, 2014). Arthur T. made it possible for his middle class employees to earn a living by paying them at an hourly rate above minimum wage.

The protests spanned from June 23 to August 27, 2014. During this time many employees did not work and the company lost millions and millions of dollars daily (O’Neil, 2014). All employees, even the ones at the lowest levels, chose to stand up for their cause. Community organizing and community advocacy were at the forefront of these protests. The protests were organized by the employees and regular everyday people, that decided they could not let their beloved CEO be threatened by a greedy Board of Directors and his angry cousin, Arthur S. The people lead peaceful protests and demonstrations all over New England, at various Market Basket locations, and at their corporate office in Tewksbury, MA. More than 6,000 people attended a protest in Tewksbury and to a clueless onlooker, you may have thought they were celebrating a big win for a sports team or that it was some kind of tailgating event (O’Neil, 2014). When the community strongly believes for a cause and stands together, they can accomplish anything.

The story of the Market Basket protests ends on a happy note. After two months of protests,

Arthur T. was able to purchase the remaining shares of the company and become full owner.

Now, he no longer has to worry about his cousin, Arthur S., trying to force him out of the company again. Hopefully this ends the feuding within the families that has been going on for decades. If not, there is one thing we can be sure of – if anyone tries coming for Arthur T. again, the community will rise up and support him.

#commpsych

 

Michelline Kiezer-Roles is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell

 

References

 

Launchpad. (2015, Nov. 11). Ted Leonsis, and the leadership lessons to be learned from ‘The Market Basket Effect’. Retrieved from https://www.hellenext.org/launchpad_1/tedleonsis-and-the-leadership-lessons-to-be-learned-from-the-market-basket-effect-we-thepeople-film-demoulas-greek-american-family-business/

O’Neil, L. (2014, July 29). Sympathy for the overdog? Why are grocery workers in New England rallying around their millionaire ex- CEO? Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2014/07/

Was It All Just “Gentle Fun?”

by Patricia Luki

A few days ago, I came across a video segment of a morning news show from Fox
News. I am not an avid TV news-watcher, so it was very surprising for me to see this
video went viral on different social media platforms.

 
The show segment is called Watter’s World on a news show called O’Reilly Factor. With
all the spotlights in the world are directed towards the United States’ presidential
election, it is shocking how China was brought up, mostly in a negative way, several
times by one of the candidates. In this segment, Jesse Watters asked people in the
Chinatown area in New York City about their thoughts on the presidential election.
Some of Watters ignorant remarks from the video included (Fox News, 2016):

 
“Am I supposed to bow to say hello?”

 
“Is this the year of the dragon? Rabbit?”

 
“Is everything made in China now? Tell me what’s not made in China. I can’t think of
any”

 
“Do they call Chinese food in China just food?”

 
“Do you have traditional Chinese herbs for performance?”

 
“Do you know karate?”

 

Although some people might find this funny, or at least the producing team thinks it is,
the questions he asked has nothing to do with gathering sample of political opinions
from the Asian American population.

 
In the video, Watters interviewed some people in the area, some of them are elderly or
bystanders who do not really speak English. He went to them anyway and interviewed
them for their political opinions as a joke. You can also see in the video that some of the
people there are offended by his questions; for example, a guy was irritated when
Watters asked to translate a sentence in Chinese but unable to pronounce it back
correctly. However, this did not stop Watters to continue with his “gentle fun” interview.
How is this acceptable?

 
The most infuriating part of the whole segment was O’Reilly’s take on the whole
interview was that most of the people in Chinatown are aware of the political situation in
the United States. O’Reilly mentioned that some people say that the community is very
insulated and does not interact with American politics (Fox News, 2016). I’m not really
sure where he got this information from, but the reality is that most people read or watch
the news! Even people in Indonesia are aware about the political situation in the United
States. Moreover, Watters stated that most people in Chinatown did not know what was
going on. Well, if you’re going to ask questions about Chinese food or traditional
Chinese herbs, you are not going to have their political opinions about the presidential
election, Mr. Watters.

 
Another irritating part of this whole segment was how O’Reilly called this act as “gentle
fun” and “it’s all in good fun” (Fox News, 2016). The way they are poking fun at
stereotypes and getting away with it is just shocking to me. I just couldn’t believe that
this happened on television.

 
Moreover, the way Watters asked these questions implied that these people’s voices
did not matter. By being ignoring the background of the people who he interviewed, and
disregarding the fact that some of these people might be an American citizen who are
eligible to vote, Watters failed to acknowledge that their opinions do matter!

 
In community psychology, Isaac Prilleltensky talked about values in praxis, which
includes respect for diversity (Prilleltensky, 2001). These values state that professionals
working with the field should promote respect and appreciation for diverse social
identities and unique oppressions (Prilleltensky, 2001).

 
I think that Watters’ video segment should be a reminder for all of us, not just future
community psychologists, that poking fun at marginalized populations “gentle fun” and it
should not be acceptable. Psychologists or not, we all should respect for other people’s
diverse social identities and their uniqueness.

 
#UML #commpsych

 

 

Patricia Luki is a graduate student in the Autism Studies program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

 

 
References
Fox News Channel. (2016). Watters’ World: Chinatown edition. Retrieved October 11,
2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJmnLzw8NA4
Prilleltensky, I. (2001). Value-Based Praxis in Community Psychology: Moving Toward
Social Justice and Social Action. American Journal of Community Psychology,
29(5), 747-778. doi:10.1023/a:1010417201918

 

Honk! A Festival of Activist Street Bands

by Kristin Cook

When I attended the Honk! Festival of Activist Street Bands in Somerville,
Massachusetts over Columbus Day weekend, Isaac Prilleltensky’s (2001) article,
Value-Based Praxis in Community Psychology: Moving Toward Social Justice and
Social Action, was on my mind. (I had completed an analysis paper just the day before.)
Prilleltensky (2001) offers a set of values to promote personal, collective, and relational
wellness and urges the field of community psychology to intensify efforts to advance
social justice and social action. As the performances entertained me at the Honk!
Festival, I reflected on the festival’s intent to promote social justice and activism.

 
Honk! is a free, community organized, three day festival. Thundering brass bands from
all over the United States and the world descend on Davis Square for a “celebration of
music, community, and activism” (honkfest.org, 2016). The festival is funded and
organized by the grassroots effort of one thousand volunteers, local businesses, and
residents. Musicians come to the festival at their own expense, some traveling from
great distances (honkfest.org, 2016). I planted myself in the center of the square where
more than twenty-five energized activist bands performed throughout the day. Band
names were creative: Le Pompier Poney Club (Marseille, France), Environmental
Encroachment (Chicago, IL), Forward! Marching Band (Madison, WI), and Second Line
Social Aid and the Pleasure Society Brass Band (Somerville, MA).

 
I’m aware of activist musicians who promote social justice and political agendas, but I’d
never heard the term “activist band” prior to the Honk! Festival. According to
honkfest.org (2016), an activist band is socially engaged, “some in direct action and
outright political protest, others in community building, be it performing for social justice
or community-based organizations or conducting workshops in the public schools”
(honkfest.org, 2016). Honk! Festival bands perform for free and symbolically, at street
level “without sound amplification and with very little distance between artist and
audience” in order to “create a participatory spectacle to reclaim public space in ways
that place them at the heart of activist politics” (honkfest.org, 2016).

 
The energy at the festival was electric; tubas, trombones, and drums boomed. I sat on
the pavement and took in the atmosphere, appreciating the performances in solidarity
with community members. I thought about the activist and social justice aims of the
Honk! Festival through the lens of Prilleltensky (2001) and community psychology. How
did this festival promote collective wellness and the value of social justice? First, the
festival did (as purported), reclaim public space. Streets in the square were auto-free,
allowing pedestrians to walk or dance freely through the square. Public parks were in
use; emphatic music created a vitality that pushed community members together and
promoted collective emotional well-being. Second, because the festival was free of
charge and performed at street level, it was inclusive. There was equal opportunity for
community members to attend, regardless of socioeconomic background or status quo.
The music, as a centerpiece of the festival promoted solidarity as the community
reveled in the sound together. Third, the city square venue provided an opportunity for
the dissemination and transmission of ideas. Children asked questions, community
members paraded with signs expressing their idealistic needs (More parks for
Somerville!), and many advocated political agendas. In the execution of the Honk!
Festival, I could see the values of community psychology, social justice, and social
action all around me. Honk! will be back in Somerville again next October.
#commpsych

 

Kristin Cook is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

 
References
Honk! Festival of Activist Street Bands. (2016). Retrieved from http://honkfest.org/about/
Prilleltensky, I., (2001). Value based praxis in community psychology: moving toward
social justice and social action. American Journal of Community Psychology, 29
(5), 747-774.