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/