Market Basket Workers Win Return Of Supermarket's Former President
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
Supermarket workers wanted their ousted CEO to be put back in charge and they got their way. Now Market Basket trucks are rolling once again in New England. A six-week-old walkout had brought the supermarket chain to its knees. It's an astonishing victory by non-union labor, but at what cost? From member station WBUR in Boston, Curt Nickisch reports.
CURT NICKISCH, BYLINE: For the first time since he was fired as CEO in June, Arthur T. Demoulas parked at company headquarters in Duxbury, Massachusetts and begin his work day. Hundreds of workers greeted him, back on the job too, just hours after the deal was signed for Demoulas to buy-out his rival cousin in the family-owned business. He climbed onto the back of a pickup truck and told workers he loved them.
ARTHUR DEMOULAS: You, and only you, have got the professors and the CEOs at the workplace here at Market Basket so much more than just a job.
NICKISCH: The company's 25,000 employees could hardly believe it. They'd been afraid they'd lose their bonuses and positive work environment under the replacement executives so they brought the $4 billion firm to a standstill and made history by winning back their CEO. Bill Nascimento is a bakery manager at one of the company's 71 full-service supermarkets.
BILL NASCIMENTO: There's no words for it. I'm just happy, you know? This is what we were dreaming every single day.
NICKISCH: At a Market Basket warehouse, the forklifts are rolling again,
BRIAN KELLEHER: These guys are loading the trucks going to the stores, these are all loaded up ready to go, full trailers, ready to get this out of here.
NICKISCH: Warehouse manager Brian Kelleher knows that the sooner stores have food on their shelves, the sooner Market Basket can make money again.
KELLEHER: You got dog food, you got tuna fish, you got pickles - I mean, you got everything that these people need right now to get everybody on track to get their groceries in their cupboards and try to get those customers back on board with us, which I'm sure they will be.
NICKISCH: But that's an open question. The walkout forced customers to do their grocery shopping elsewhere and they may not all come back. It could also take weeks to restore relationships with food suppliers. Frank Hoy researches family businesses at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He says after losing millions of dollars, Market Basket is now in a very different financial position.
FRANK HOY: You know, whatever happens, you know, there's going to be debt to be serviced that this company hasn't had to deal with before. And that almost certainly means belt-tightening.
NICKISCH: That's because as part of the deal, returning CEO Arthur T. Demoulas is replacing his rival family members with new investors. He's reportedly getting money from a private equity firm and a commercial bank. The company culture may be stronger than ever in this astounding victory, but the worker walkout has resulted in a new test for Market Basket. For NPR News, I'm Curt Nickisch in Boston.
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