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Protesting workers nix Market Basket amnesty

Sunday News correspondent

July 26. 2014 9:56PM

Market Basket employees who have been calling in sick and walking off the job in support of their fired boss are slamming an offer of amnesty from the company's board of directors and promising instead to fight on with protests and boycotts until Arthur T. Demoulas is reinstated as CEO.

"This past month has been trying," the board said in a brief news release issued Friday night. "We appreciate the strain this change in leadership has placed on our associates. We welcome back associates who are committed to Market Basket's customers. There will be no penalty or discipline for any associate who joins in what will be a significant effort to return to the unparalleled level of performance and customer service that have been hallmarks of the Market Basket brand."

The board also promised there would be no change in the company's "unmatched" compensation and benefits.

Workers have disrupted deliveries to the chain's 71 locations, leaving shelves empty and customers flocking to other grocery stores. Organizers of the protests and walkouts immediately rejected the company's offer in a message posted on their Facebook page, Save Market Basket.

On Saturday morning, the group also issued its own news release, reaffirming their commitment to their cause.

"ATD must be reinstated with full authority as president of DSM. This has been and will continue to be non-negotiable.

"We also want to be clear in our message to any other potential buyer that we will work for no other CEO," they wrote.

Market Basket workers also praised customers who were planning their own Saturday rallies at different Market Basket stores, calling it an "awesome plan."

The latest statements came in the wake of Friday's huge rally of workers, customers and local political leaders at the Market Basket store in Tewksbury, Mass.

Thousands of people packed the parking lot of the store for a loud show of support that could be heard on Route 495, where traffic was at a standstill because of the many cars trying to reach the rally.

While workers protested in the hot sun, the board of directors met in Boston to consider options, including an offer from Arthur T. Demoulas to buy out the 50.5 percent of the company's stock held by other members of the Demoulas family headed up by his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas.

The family-owned company has been hampered by decades of infighting which led to the firing of Arthur T. Demoulas last month after Arthur S. Demoulas and his side of the family gained control of the board.

Among the conflicts between the two sides were the company's profit-sharing plan, employee bonuses and a yearlong 4 percent discount on all purchases launched by Arthur T. Demoulas last January.

The board hired co-CEOs Felicia Thornton, a former vice president of the Albertsons grocery store chain, and James Gooch, a former CEO of Radio Shack, to run the company.

Shortly after Friday's rally ended, the board released a statement saying it will "evaluate and seriously consider" the buyout offer from Arthur T. along with any other offers or proposals.

The board also criticized the "negative behavior of certain current and former associates" that they said was at odds with the company's culture of putting customers first. Board members also reaffirmed their support for Thornton and Gooch.

But a few hours later, the board issued its second press release with a softer tone.

Although workers had originally hoped that Friday's rally would be their final protest, they are now planning more.

Tom Trainor, one of eight senior managers who were fired for their roles in organizing the protest, told the crowd in Tewksbury not to be discouraged.

"I am getting ticked off with people who are telling me we can't win this," said Trainor. "They don't know us."

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