As a single mother to a 4-year-old daughter, Christine Hennessey has relied heavily on her income from her Market Basket job to make ends meet.
The seven-year employee of the chain's original Westford location works 32 hours a week -- the most she's able to as an assistant manager for the store checkout. With the Market Basket boycott now in its fifth week, part-time hours have been reduced nearly to zero across the chain's 71 locations.
That means Hennessey and thousands like her are left scrambling for unemployment benefits or other jobs.
"It's pretty scary right now," the 31-year-old Chelmsford resident said. "I don't have much left (in savings) from my taxes. I can survive maybe one more month, then I don't know what I'm going to do."
Hennessey, who is also a full-time student, has applied for unemployment benefits but has yet to be approved. She's studying to become a medical assistant and expects to be done in about a month and a half -- but in the meantime doesn't expect to be able to find work, at Market Basket or elsewhere.
"No one is going to hire me for a couple weeks," she said.
Her daughter, Mackenzie, was diagnosed with epilepsy, which complicates her schedule but was always something Market Basket worked around, she said.
"It's an awesome, awesome family workplace," said Hennessey, whose mother and brother also work at the chain. "With Market Basket, their whole thing is family first.
Hennessey's story is repeated across Market Basket stores, which have become nearly deserted since mid-July when workers began their protest calling for the return of ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas. Customers began their boycott at the same time, and employees have said sales across the company are down 90 percent or more.
Earlier this month, the chain's new executives told stores to lower their staffing to meet sales levels, which in many cases meant only full-time workers with guaranteed hours were left on the schedule. The Market Basket board of directors is considering bids, with an agreement on a sale to Demoulas possible as soon as Sunday, according to governors Deval Patrick of Massachusetts and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire.
Another part-timer relied on for a family's income is Jen Flanders of Concord, N.H. The single mother of two boys, age 13 and 11, hasn't worked since July 29.
Flanders, who works in the Concord, N.H., store, said she's applied for other grocery-store jobs but hasn't been successful, and has applied for unemployment but hasn't yet received benefits.
"It has been difficult the past couple weeks. Especially as a single mother of a teen boy and preteen boy. Both hungry and growing all the time," said the 35-year-old deli worker, who normally works 15 hours per week.
"I do get child support for them and some food stamps so I can at least feed them and get them clothes that fit and some school supplies. But I am scared because I cannot afford to pay bills right now or rent."
Another worker at the original Westford store, Sreyduong Mao, relies on her work in the deli department to support herself while studying business at UMass Lowell.
Without her usual 25 to 32 hours each week, the 28-year-old Lowell resident said she's not sure how she'll afford textbooks for the upcoming fall semester. She said she's applied for a Stop & Shop job but hasn't heard back.
"It is heartbreaking to see this family company falling apart because of the greed," said Mao, who was among those at rallies in support for Arthur T.
"I am not upset for leaving without any hours but I was disappointed with the actions from those millionaires, educated CEOs and others on the board of directors," she said. "They are heartless because they ignore all the employees' hearts. They have money but they don't have a sense of caring and sharing. Their actions affect lives of employees, customers, and vendors."
Follow Grant Welker on Twitter @SunGrantWelker.