By Veronica Mackey
A top news story in Massachusetts, has all the elements of a political drama.
It’s messy, full of twists and turns, with two sides of a multibillion dollar family empire pulling in opposite directions. There are casualties and strange bedfellows. No one knows how it will end, but everyone has an opinion.
It’s about greed, power, loyalty, division and solidarity. It is set in the backdrop of a family feud that has being brewing for decades.
Here’s the back story:
Billionaire Arthur T. Demoulas was ousted from his position as president of Demoulas Market Basket Inc., by his cousin Arthur S. Demoulas in June. The supermarket chain is barely surviving now because of the warring cousins.
Adrian Walker, columnist for the Boston Globe, reports: “By now the narrative is familiar to much of Massachusetts. Arthur S. Demoulas’s side of the family controls 50.5 percent of the stock. Arthur T. Demoulas, whose side controls the other 49.5 percent, has long run the business. The employees want Arthur T. to return, while many besieged customers would just be happy to see somebody, anybody, stock the shelves.”
Since the firing, there have been three major protests in support of Arthtur T. getting his job back. The most recent attracted between 5,000 and 6,000 protestors armed with a petition bearing 100,000 signatures. Talk about brand ambassadors! Employees from at least three states have been showing undying solidarity.
Employees from all pay grades have sacrificed their jobs of this uber rich guy. Why?
Besides decent wages, good benefits and Christmas bonuses (even for part timers), workers say the fired CEO is not typical of the wealthiest 1 percent, aloof and uncaring about the “common man.” He treats working class people like family. They have to stand by him.
“He’s one of us,” said a protesting employee. “He comes here and he knows everyone by name and treats us fairly.” That alone, he says, is enough for them to fight for “Artie T.,” as he is affectionately called. The supermarket mogul has become somewhat of a saintly figure, with his balding head and unshaven face appearing on hand made posters everywhere.
Employees interviewed by Bloomberg reported several encounters that have bonded them to their former boss.Two employees reported getting a personal phone call from him, offering condolences when a parent died. A woman recalled him personally coming to the store opening and congratulating her on “our” new store. A man said Artie called him to come across the parking lot and meet his wife.
Started by Greek immigrants in 1917, Market Basket has lost tens of millions of dollars since the firing.
“However his cousins feel about him, his return is the only way to save Market Basket in any recognizable form,” Walker writes. “And it would be a shame — unfathomable, really — for a company that was perfectly healthy to fall apart over sheer greed and bickering.
The Market Basket board is considering selling the chain to an unspecified number of bidders, including Arthur T.