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August 19. 2014 8:13PM

Market Basket workers anxious to end standoff


Market Basket customer Leah Kraatz, seen Tuesday outside the store in Manchester, has been picketing daily. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

Many Market Basket workers are frustrated at repeated reports — first hyped then dashed — that the supermarket’s month-long, family food fight soon could be over.

“It’s actually pretty painful,” said Walter O’Brien, assistant store director in Epping.

“Emotional-wise and stressful-wise, it take its toll,” he said Tuesday. “It’s not easy doing nothing.”

This week alone, governors from New Hampshire and Massachusetts met with the Market Basket principals Sunday night, releasing hopeful statements that a deal was close and would coax workers and customers back to the chain’s 71 New England stores.

Then the Demoulas board met Monday with no word of a deal, followed by more reports Tuesday that a deal could be finalized by week’s end.

“I just want to know when it’s over,” said Jeremy Wonser, an assistant store director at the Market Basket in Tilton.

“I try not to look at the Facebook pages,” he said. “I come in and look for something to do and wait for them to tell me there’s a truck at the back of the store (to unload).”

Wonser said “morale is pretty low” among workers there.

“When are we going to turn this back on?” he said.

William Hinkle, press secretary to Gov. Maggie Hassan, who met with the principals in the Market Basket fight Sunday, said Tuesday that there was no timetable for a deal.

“While we have no updates at this time, Governor Hassan remains hopeful that a constructive resolution will be reached to keep Market Basket’s dedicated workers employed and to reduce the impact on our consumers, communities and economy,” Hinkle said in an email.

A Market Basket spokesman said the company’s co-CEOs, Felicia Thornton and James Gooch, “would like to keep everyone employed, which requires that associates return to the business of running supermarkets since the shutdown harms associates, customers and vendors alike.”

For weeks, ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas has been in talks with his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, to buy a controlling stake in the chain, which operates about 30 stores in New Hampshire.

“People are done waiting. People just want the deal to be done. They want to know what’s going to happen,” Wonser said.

In Londonderry, Assistant Store Director Sean Morse said employees have experienced a roller coaster of emotions.

“There’s definitely highs and lows,” he said. “Our spirits are good.”Morse said the store won’t take long to return to normal.“Literally from when we get the product, we can have this store entirely ready to go in five or six hours,” Morse said.

He thinks the store “will be like a party atmosphere” once a deal is confirmed that brings back the workers’ beloved CEO.

But no one knows for sure when that will happen, if at all.

“I don’t think anybody expected it to take this long,” Morse said. “I don’t think our resolve has left us at all.”

But he can no longer give much credence anymore to reports of a resolution close at hand.

“Unless I hear it from one of our owners’ mouths,” he said, “it doesn’t mean anything.”

mcousineau@unionleader.com



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