It’s been eight weeks since the internal schism over ownership and leadership has effectively shut down business at the Market Basket supermarket chain, and the protest by employees continues outside stores.
These days, however, the numbers of protesters have dwindled. The beeps from passing motorists, fewer and farther between.
“We’ve been hearing the beeps for weeks. I’m getting tired of the beeps,” said Spencer Worth, a meat cutter at the Manchester Market Basket.
“Yeah, I’d rather hear bells, ringing for service,” said his boss, meat manager John Meletis, who has been a Market Basket employee for 34 years. They were the only two stationed outside the downtown Manchester store around noon on Monday, noting that a few fellow full timers would be back after lunch break.
But in general, shoppers and employees alike appear to be worn down by the lack of movement by the market owners toward a resolution.
“Morale? Everyone’s tired of doing this. We want to get back to work,” said Meletis. “This is the most unproductive thing we could possibly do – but there’s nothing to do inside, either.”
They’re still collecting paychecks, but understand that could change, at any time, especially if the outcome of negotiations does not go in ousted CEO “Artie T’s” favor.
Or if an outside company buys the chain.
“Oh, sure. We are absolutely worried that there will be a point of no return,” Meletis said.
Today marks eight weeks since company CEO Arthur “Artie T.” Demoulas was ousted on June 23 by his cousin and current majority shareholder, Arthur S. Demoulas, prompting employees to protest and customers to spontaneously boycott, in a show of solidarity for “Artie T.” as he is widely known. Employees have said they won’t return to work until Artie T. is reinstated as CEO.
So far, negotiations to that end have been fruitless.
On Aug. 17 New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, along with Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, met with “principal parties” from Market Basket to underscore the financial impact the epic family feud is having on both state economies.
Hassan’s office released the following statement on Monday:
“Market Basket is a significant business in New Hampshire, and its role as an employer for thousands of dedicated employees and as a provider of affordable groceries for its customers impacts our economy and communities in many ways. This is a private business dispute, but the Governor is hopeful that the leaders at Market Basket will come together and reach a constructive resolution that keeps their workers employed and reduces the impact on consumers and other affected businesses.”
Part-time employees had their hours reduced last week, to zero hours.
One of them, Manchester Market Basket employee “Bo,” collected his final paycheck as a part-timer on Aug. 14, for $121. He’s applied for unemployment benefits, and says he’s eligible for $80 a week in benefits.
He asked that his last name not be used for this story, although both Meletis and Worth confirmed that they know him, and that he was among those “laid off” due to the work slow-down.
“I’d rather you not publish my full name. It feels bad,” Bo said, sitting at one of the city parks last week in an old Operation Enduring Freedom T-shirt. He had some things with him in a backpack, and says he passes the time mostly by reading.
He was employed for two-and-a-half years at the downtown supermarket.
“Now I’m living out of my car, which is parked on Maple Street. It needs some work. I was sharing an apartment with someone, but I can’t pay rent anymore. I have bills to pay. All my stuff is in a storage facility. I don’t have EBT – yet. I don’t like taking public money, but I may have to,” he says.
Without wheels, it’s harder to find another job. Besides, he’s still hopeful he may get his job back – if things between the feuding cousins gets resolved.
“Arthur S. doesn’t know the damage he’s caused with the ripple effect of this,” he says, standing up to stretch his legs. “I hope it ends soon.”