Arthur T. DeMoulas is back at the helm of Market Basket’s 71 grocery stores, and workers are busy restocking the shelves and welcoming customers.
Arthur T. previously owned a 49.5 percent share in the supermarket chain, and was fired by the board as chief executive officer in June. Last week he signed a contract to purchase the 50.5 percent of the shares remaining from his cousin, Arthur S. DeMoulas, and will become the sole owner of the chain of Market Basket stores. The supermarkets are in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, with a single store in Maine.
Shortly after Arthur T.’s firing, Market Basket executives who walked off the job in solidarity with him were also fired. Within a week, almost 25,000 employees had left their jobs to picket outside the 71 stores.
Threatened with dismissal, the employees held their ground. Recently, all part timers saw their hours cut to zero. The protesting employees were also threatened with dismissal, but that did not happen.
In a speech Thursday morning, Aug. 28, to employees and supporters gathered at the grocery chain’s Tewksbury, Mass., headquarters, and delivered from a makeshift podium atop a flatbed truck, Arthur T. expressed gratitude for the loyalty of Market Basket employees and customers who, in an unprecedented show of support, acquiesced to the protesting employees and boycotted the stores. The move meant customers paid higher prices for their food, and receipts from other supermarkets were posted in the windows of Market Basket stores to show that they were willing to pay those prices to support the employees and get Arthur T. back.
Amid periodic shouts of “We love you Arthur T!” he said, “It’s great to be back together again. Words cannot express how I feel for each and every one of you.
“Words cannot express how much I missed you and words cannot express how much I love you,” he added. “Seeing you here today is like a little piece of heaven on earth. As I stand before you I am in awe of all you have accomplished and the sterling example you have all set for so many people across the region and across the country. As I stand here there is very little that I could ever add to your brilliant words, your extraordinary display of loyalty and the power of your enduring human spirit over the past six weeks.”
He acknowledged that employees stood in the heat of the summer sun and under umbrellas while enduring rainstorms.
“You taught the educators, professors, the analysts and the CEOs that the workplace here at Market Basket is so much more than just a job,” Arthur T. said.
He thanked the employees and customers on behalf of his late father, T.A. DeMoulas; his mother; his wife, Maureen; his three sisters; brothers-in-law and other family members for the support given to the family during the last six weeks.
“Whether it’s a sacker or a cashier or a grocery clerk, truck driver, warehouse selector, store manager, supervisor, customer vendor or CEO, we are all equal,” Arthur T. said.
Londonderry Market Basket manager Mark Lemieux said his employees are happy to be back.
“It’s a very emotional day,” he said Thursday, Aug. 28. “We were here at 5:30 this morning to get ready, processing the product that we have. We have to wait for some perishables and when they hit the distribution center, they are going to be shipped out to the stores.”
Sean Morse, assistant manager of the Londonderry store, said products are arriving and shelves are filling back up.
“We’re in very good shape,” he said. “Meat is still coming in, produce bounced back remarkably and by Thursday (Sept. 4), the meat department will be 100 percent. I expect by Friday that dairy will be 100 percent.”
Morse said that customer counts are up as well. “We’re up 10 percent over last year,” he said.
Twenty-six-year employee Rich Student and 24-year employee Dana Desrosiers were filling a refrigerated case and said they were happy to be back at work. Customers walked by and said, “welcome back.”
“This is fabulous,” customer John Antonellis said.
“Thank God it’s over. I didn’t just win as a customer, Artie didn’t just win as a CEO. We won as middle class America. It’s standing up for everything this country stands for and has fought for,” customer Katie Wilhelm said.
Wednesday night, Aug. 27, when the deal was announced, New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick released a joint statement: “Market Basket is a major employer in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and an important local resource for the communities the company serves. We are delighted that the parties have reached agreement on terms of sale and resolution of operating authority, so that employees can return to work and customers will once again be able to rely on these stores to meet their needs.”
U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, also issued a statement about the agreement: “Market Basket stores are an important part of our communities and their return to normal operations is a win for their workers and people across New Hampshire. I was pleased to hear of the agreement and look forward to their workers being back on the job.”