If you haven't been following the Market Basket story over the past week, it's worth giving some attention: Thousands of supermarket workers and managers have been taking action—serious action—over the ouster of their company's longtime CEO. Really. Market Basket CEO Arthur T. Demoulas was ousted after his cousin Arthur S. Demoulas gained control of the company's board, sparking protests:
Drivers and warehouse workers have been on what can only be called a wildcat strike. Store managers are encouraging customers to boycott their stores. Politicians are lining up to support the boycott. Even the Dropkick Murphys have tweeted their support.The shelves in Market Basket stores have been left bare by the worker protests. An estimated 5,000 workers and supporters rallied Friday morning as Market Basket's board met. Arthur T. Demoulas has offered to buy a majority share of the company, an offer the board said it would "seriously consider." It also issued a statement pressuring workers to go back on the job. Which they will, if the board does the right thing.
So why are the workers so fiercely loyal to Arthur T.? Well, it's pretty simple: Under Arthur T., Market Basket employees have been paid well. They've gotten benefits and bonuses. And they've been treated with respect. Arthur T. Demoulas has earned his workers' respect and affection. But it's not just that:
“Market Basket employees think that without Arthur T., they won’t be able to hold on to their values and will fall into a vicious cycle,” said Zeynep Ton, a professor of operations management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who visited the picket lines this week. “I don’t blame them for fighting to keep the integrity of their business.”In the current business environment, when a CEO who runs a profitable business while treating workers well gets the boot, you have to suspect that one of the plans for greater profit is to treat workers worse. We've seen it so many times, and clearly these workers believe they have reason to worry. What's perhaps most remarkable is that they have enough solidarity and feel powerful enough to take such strong action.