TEWKSBURY - Thousands of Market Basket employees rallied outside the Stadium Plaza store Monday morning on the fourth day of a boycott attempting to get ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas reinstated.

Meanwhile, the former company leader issued his first public comments since being fired last month by the board of directors, setting off a round of executives quitting in protest and stirring more anger in employees unhappy with the direction of the company. Demoulas said the company's success is the result of a good business model and dedicated employees who make that model work.

Thousands rally outside the Market Basket store in Stadium Plaza in Tewksbury in support of ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas on Monday. Watch video on this
Thousands rally outside the Market Basket store in Stadium Plaza in Tewksbury in support of ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas on Monday. Watch video on this story at lowellsun.com. SUN photos / David H. Brow

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

"The success of Market Basket is the result of two things: a business model that works and the execution of it by a dedicated and impassioned team of associates. Their fierce loyalty to the company and its customers has always been deeply valued," Demoulas said in the statement issued by Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications. "In the final analysis, this is not about me. It is about the people who have proven their dedication over many years and should not have lost their jobs because of it. I urge that they be reinstated in the best interest of the company and our customers."

Tension between workers and the new top executives has intensified in the past week, first when employees posted signs and posters of Demoulas in the company's headquarters, and then when as many as a few hundred workers walked off the job Friday.


Advertisement

Monday's rally was the largest yet, following the firings on Sunday of eight Market Basket managers. Employees wore shirts with Demoulas' face, carried signs decrying what they called corporate greed and chanted "Arthur T! Arthur T!" and "bring him back!"

Some of those fired urged the crowd to keep fighting and saying they had no regrets for losing their jobs after speaking out against the ouster of Demoulas.

Many vowed to be back on the job.

Joe Garon, a Market Basket employee for 49 years until he was fired Sunday, addresses the rally in Tewksbury Monday.Sun staff photos can be ordered by
Joe Garon, a Market Basket employee for 49 years until he was fired Sunday, addresses the rally in Tewksbury Monday.

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

"We're going to come back," Dean Joyce, the fired warehouse manager, said confidently. Joyce referred to how word spread over the weekend that he was no longer with Market Basket. That's not exactly true, he said. "I'm more with Market Basket now than I ever was," he said. Another fired worker, Steve Paulenka, was confident that the show of solidarity from thousands of employees was going to make a difference. "I have never been more confident that the light at the end of the tunnel is the sun, and it's not a train coming," he said. As the gathering took place outside, the shelves inside the Market Basket in the background were getting bare, particularly for produce. The store was quiet, with far fewer employees than normal.

Fired Market Basket veteran worker Steve Paulenka leads Monday’s rally and holds up signed petitions outside the Stadium Plaza store in Tewksbury.Sun
Fired Market Basket veteran worker Steve Paulenka leads Monday's rally and holds up signed petitions outside the Stadium Plaza store in Tewksbury.

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

For the rally, some employees came from as far away as the Biddeford, Maine, store. Many of the chain's 71 stores also included rallies or boycotts Monday.

The fighting within Market Basket has caught the attention of analysts and many in the business world.

Daniel Korschun, a professor in Drexel University's LeBow College of Business, has incorporated the controversy into a business course.

"I was blown away by how many people were there," said Korschun, who attended the rally. "I've never seen this before, in terms of trying to retain a CEO. Many times, employees are trying to oust a CEO."

Still, the odds of Demoulas being reinstated is a long shot, he said. Akey aspect will be how long employees are able to keep the boycott going.

Showing their support for ousted Market Basket CEO Arthur T. Demoulas at Monday’s rally in Tewksbury are, from left, Stephen Distasio (a Raynham
Showing their support for ousted Market Basket CEO Arthur T. Demoulas at Monday's rally in Tewksbury are, from left, Stephen Distasio (a Raynham store manager), his son Adam, 9, Mya Hebert, 9, her mom in back is Kristie Hebert form West Bridgewater. SUN/ David H. Brow

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

"It's so hard to predict," Korschun said. "I think the odds are still against them."

Jon Springer, an associate editor for Supermarket News, said he doesn't foresee the battle ending well for either side: The chain is losing sales. Many employees have lost their jobs.

"It's extraordinary that it's still going on," he said of the boycott, "but it's really unclear that the workers are going to get to the place where they want to be."

The board of directors was scheduled on Monday to discuss the demand from employees that Demoulas be reinstated. The board did not release any details of its meeting.

Speakers said a boycott of the company would be enough to get Demoulas - and their company - back.

 

"We cannot feed the greed," fired 49-year buyer Joe Garon said, adding in an interview that he has no regrets at being fired.

"I've been terminated," he told the crowd, "but, boy, I feel good looking at you guys."

John Garon, Joe's son and also a Market Basket worker, said he was at his father's house Sunday when a courier delivered the termination notice for his dad. He called co-CEOs Jim Gooch and Felicia Thornton - common targets at the rally - "spineless cowards" for not doing the firings in person. Tom Trainor, another fired worker, made a passionate rallying cry to keep fighting.

"We're not going back to work," he said. "We're going to shut this company down."

Demoulas, who lives just down the street from where the rally took place, has not spoken publicly since losing his job. His children, who were watching the rally from inside a car parked near a truck atop which people spoke, politely declined to comment.

One online petition seeking Demoulas' reinstatement had more than 12,000 signatures Monday. Employees have spoken about Demoulas' care for his workers, including how he learns names, asks about family members and helps out in tough times. He has always been there for the employees, many have said, and now they're returning the favor.

"They can keep the name on the sign," Scott Patenaude, a Burlington store manager, said, "but when you get rid of these people, it's not Market Basket anymore."

Market Basket employees fired for speaking out have been offered free legal assistance and advice from the Boston Teamsters 25, the union group announced Monday.

"They should be able to voice their opinions without losing their job," union President Sean O'Brien said in a statement.

Sun reporter Robert Mills contributed to this report.

Follow Grant Welker on Twitter and Tout @SunGrantWelker.