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August 06. 2014 8:37PM

Few applicants for Market Basket jobs amid ongoing protest; new bid for company reported


Chris Sturzo of Epping, store director at the Rochester Market Basket, gestures at vehicles leaving the job fair at the Market Basket distribution center in Andover on Wednesday. (David Lane/Union Leader)

Protesters far outnumbered the several dozen applicants who showed up for Market Basket’s job fair aimed at recruiting new workers.

Market Basket opened its job fair to the public on Wednesday. By 4 p.m., about four dozen cars had passed by a picket line of workers to fill out applications and drop off resumes at the office of the company’s warehouse in Andover.

“A lot of people have gone in and come right back out,” said Rosie Hagopian, an administrative assistant who has been with Market Basket for more than 40 years.

Meanwhile, according to The Boston Globe, Market Basket's board of directors has received another serious offer to buy the part of the company not owned by Arthur T. Demoulas, who was ousted as CEO in July.

According to the Globe, an offer was made by the parent company of Hannaford Bros. Co., which is based in Belgium. Hannaford also operates grocery stores throughout New England.

The Globe said its sources were not free to speak publically aabout the matter.

 

At least one potential job applicant Wednesday may have been swayed by the approximately 150 protesting workers who greeted each incoming car with boos, thumbs-down and comments like, “It’s only temp work” and “You’re applying to a sinking ship.” A driver who pulled in and passed through the picketers turned around in the parking lot and drove back out as workers cheered and applauded.

A FedEx office across the street from the Market Basket warehouse set up a help-wanted sandwich-board sign, and some protesters directed job seekers to that office.

Not all of the protesters confronted those who came to check out the job fair. A small group of workers stood off to the side and said they did not want to yell at anyone who was unemployed and needed a job.

Still, there were not a lot of applicants for protesters to try to discourage.

“The response has been minimal,” said Joe Schmidt, an operations supervisor and one of the eight senior managers who were fired at the start of the three-week standoff between Market Basket and its 25,000 employees.

“I think a lot of people are Market Basket customers, and they understand what this is about,” Schmidt said.

Workers have been rallying and picketing individual stores demanding the company reinstate former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas, who was fired in June after years of bitter feuding among rival factions of the Demoulas family, owners of the supermarket chain. Workers, who are keenly loyal to their old boss, say they fear the company’s new leadership will place profits above customers and employees.

New Co-CEOs Felicia Thornton and James Gooch set last Monday as a deadline for workers to return to their stores and help unload trucks and stock shelves that have been empty for weeks. Workers were told if they were not back on the job, they would be replaced.

Thornton and Gooch also kicked off a three-day job fair at the start of the week, with the first two days reserved exclusively for Market Basket employees interested in moving up the company ladder.

Many workers said they felt the threat of being fired or replaced was a scare tactic; few showed up to talk about career options.

“I’m here until the end,” said Phil Putman, a Tewksbury warehouse worker who on the picket line, holding an American flag.

“We started the revolt,” said Putman referring to the warehouse crews that stayed off the job, leaving delivery trucks idle and shelves empty at the chain’s 71 stores.

“If this keeps up, there will be no Market Basket,” added Putman who added the business is losing millions every day.

Some in the crowd dismissed a story in the New York Times that reported an outside buyer had topped Arthur T. Demoulas’ offer to buy out other family members’ shares in the company.

Schmidt suggested the report might be a possible negotiation tactic, and said it was unlikely that buyers would be interested in investing in a company mired in such a messy conflict. Schmidt also said Market Basket has not responded to Arthur T. Demoulas’ advice that he and the other seven fired senior managers be reinstated for the good of the company.

“I haven’t heard anything about my job, and I don’t anticipate hearing anything,” he said. “But If Arthur T. Demoulas returns, and he calls me back, I will walk in the door with dignity and pride.”

btaormina@newstote.com



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