Family feud sparks revolt at grocery store chain

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Family feud sparks revolt at grocery store chain
Shoppers encounter empty shelves as they shop at Market Basket in Haverhill, Mass., Thursday, July 24, 2014. Arthur T. Demoulas, the former chief executive of the Market Basket supermarket chain whose ouster has led to employee protests, customer boycotts and empty shelves, says he wants to buy the entire company. (AP Photo)
Market Basket assistant managers Mike Forsyth, left, and John Surprenant, second from left, hold signs while posing with employees in Haverhill, Mass., Thursday, July 24, 2014, in a show of support for "Artie T." Arthur T. Demoulas, the former chief executive of the Market Basket supermarket chain whose ouster has led to employee protests, customer boycotts and empty shelves, says he wants to buy the entire company. (AP Photo)
Meat manager Dave Fillebrown wipes down largely empty shelves Thursday, July 24, 2014 at a Market Basket supermarket in Haverhill, Mass. A decades-long family feud, which brought about the ouster of Arthur T. Demoulas as CEO of the privately held company, led to a worker revolt, customer boycotts and empty shelves in the grocery chain's stores in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. More than 100 Massachusetts legislators and mayors, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, and New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan have publicly supported the employees. (AP Photo)
Maria Arvarado, of Haverhill, Mass. finds empty produce bins as she shops Thursday, July 24, 2014 at Market Basket supermarket in Haverhill, Mass. A decades-long family feud, which brought about the ouster of Arthur T. Demoulas as CEO of the privately held company, led to a worker revolt, customer boycotts and empty shelves in the grocery chain's stores in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. More than 100 Massachusetts legislators and mayors, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, and New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan have publicly supported the employees. (AP Photo)
Market Basket employees Rees Gemmell, far right, and colleagues acknowledge passing supporters as they picket in front of the supermarket Thursday, July 24, 2014, in Haverhill, Mass. A decades-long family feud, which brought about the ouster of Arthur T. Demoulas as CEO of the privately held company, led to a worker revolt, customer boycotts and empty shelves in the grocery chain's stores in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. More than 100 Massachusetts legislators and mayors, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, and New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan have publicly supported the employees. (AP Photo)
A customer walks by the empty produce isle Thursday July 24, 2014 at a Market Basket supermarket in Concord, N.H. A decades-long family feud, which brought about the ouster of Arthur T. Demoulas as CEO of the privately held company, led to a worker revolt, customer boycotts and empty shelves in the grocery chain's stores in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. More than 100 Massachusetts legislators and mayors, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, and New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan have publicly supported the employees. (AP Photo)
Cashiers and baggers stand idle Thursday July 24, 2014 at a Market Basket supermarket in Concord, N.H. A decades-long family feud, which brought about the ouster of Arthur T. Demoulas as CEO of the privately held company, led to a worker revolt, customer boycotts and empty shelves in the grocery chain's stores in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. More than 100 Massachusetts legislators and mayors, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, and New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan have publicly supported the employees. (AP Photo)
Market Basket employees acknowledge passing supporters as they picket in front of the store in North Andover, Mass., Thursday, July 24, 2014. Arthur T. Demoulas, the former chief executive of the Market Basket supermarket chain whose ouster has led to employee protests, customer boycotts and empty shelves, says he wants to buy the entire company. (AP Photo)
An employee of the Market Basket supermarket chain walks down an empty isle Thursday July 24, 2014, in Concord, N.H. Arthur T. Demoulas, the former chief executive of the Market Basket supermarket chain whose ouster has led to employee protests, customer boycotts and empty shelves wants to buy the entire company. He said in a statement Wednesday that he and his side of the family want to buy the 50.5 percent of the company now controlled by relatives who backed his firing last month. (AP Photo)
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WEST BRIDGEWATER, Mass. (AP) - It's been called a David vs. Goliath story, a "Tale of Two Arthurs" and even the "ultimate Greek tragedy," but the characters in this drama are not Biblical or literary figures. They're grocery store owners.

A workers' revolt at the Market Basket supermarket chain has led to empty store shelves, angry customers and support for a boycott from more than 100 state legislators and mayors.

Industry analysts say worker revolts at non-union companies are rare, but what's happening at Market Basket is particularly unusual because the workers are not asking for higher pay or better benefits. They are demanding the reinstatement of beloved former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas, who workers credit with keeping prices low, treating employees well and guiding the company's success.

The New England grocery store chain is embroiled in a family feud featuring two cousins who have been at odds for decades.

While earlier squabbles between Arthur T. Demoulas and Arthur S. Demoulas were fought in courtrooms, this dispute has spilled into Market Basket stores.

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Market Basket
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Family feud sparks revolt at grocery store chain
Market Basket employees Rees Gemmell, far right, and colleagues acknowledge passing supporters as they picket in front of the supermarket Thursday, July 24, 2014, in Haverhill, Mass. A decades-long family feud, which brought about the ouster of Arthur T. Demoulas as CEO of the privately held company, led to a worker revolt, customer boycotts and empty shelves in the grocery chain's stores in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. More than 100 Massachusetts legislators and mayors, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, and New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan have publicly supported the employees. (AP Photo)
Cashiers and baggers stand idle Thursday July 24, 2014 at a Market Basket supermarket in Concord, N.H. A decades-long family feud, which brought about the ouster of Arthur T. Demoulas as CEO of the privately held company, led to a worker revolt, customer boycotts and empty shelves in the grocery chain's stores in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. More than 100 Massachusetts legislators and mayors, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, and New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan have publicly supported the employees. (AP Photo)
Meat manager Dave Fillebrown wipes down largely empty shelves at Market Basket in Haverhill, Mass., Thursday, July 24, 2014. Arthur T. Demoulas, the former chief executive of the Market Basket supermarket chain whose ouster has led to employee protests, customer boycotts and empty shelves, says he wants to buy the entire company. (AP Photo)
Maria Arvarado, of Haverhill, Mass. finds empty produce bins as she shops Thursday, July 24, 2014 at Market Basket supermarket in Haverhill, Mass. A decades-long family feud, which brought about the ouster of Arthur T. Demoulas as CEO of the privately held company, led to a worker revolt, customer boycotts and empty shelves in the grocery chain's stores in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. More than 100 Massachusetts legislators and mayors, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, and New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan have publicly supported the employees. (AP Photo)
Market Basket employees acknowledge passing supporters as they picket in front of the store in North Andover, Mass., Thursday, July 24, 2014. Arthur T. Demoulas, the former chief executive of the Market Basket supermarket chain whose ouster has led to employee protests, customer boycotts and empty shelves, says he wants to buy the entire company. (AP Photo)
Market Basket employees acknowledge passing supporters as they picket in front of the store in North Andover, Mass., Thursday, July 24, 2014. Arthur T. Demoulas, the former chief executive of the Market Basket supermarket chain whose ouster has led to employee protests, customer boycotts and empty shelves, says he wants to buy the entire company. (AP Photo)
A shopper examines produce near empty bins in a Market Basket grocery store, Tuesday, July 22, 2014, in Chelsea, Mass. Shelves in some store locations have been less than full as deliveries have been delayed by ongoing protests by employees of the 71-store chain. Arthur T. Demoulas, the fired longtime chief executive of the Market Basket supermarket chain, is urging the family-owned company to reinstate workers who were fired for protests demanding his return. (AP Photo)
Demonstrators, left and behind, display placards outside a Market Basket grocery store as a shopper pushes a grocery cart, center, Tuesday, July 22, 2014, in Chelsea, Mass. Supporters and employees rallied at Market Basket locations calling for Arthur T. Demoulas to be reinstated as CEO. Demoulas, the fired longtime chief executive of the Market Basket supermarket chain, is urging the family-owned company to reinstate workers who were fired for protests demanding his return. (AP Photo)
TEWKSBURY, MA - JULY 21: A photo of Arthur T. Demoulas hangs inside an empty seafood case at Market Basket in Tewksbury, Mass. on July 21, 2014. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
TEWKSBURY, MA - JULY 21: Steve Paulenka, recently fired from Market Basket, held up a stack of petitions he said were signed by customers in support of bringing back the former CEO. Thousands of Market Basket employees, former employees, customers and supporters rallied in Tewksbury, Mass. on Monday morning, July 21, 2014 to protest the ouster of former Market Basket CEO Arthur T. Demoulas. Speakers inlcuded recently fired employees and local politicians among others. (Photo by Dina Rudick/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
TEWKSBURY, MA - JULY 18: Brian Mamczak, 27, works at the Milford, NH Market Basket, holds a sign at the rally at the Demoulas Super Markets/Market Basket Headquarters in Tewksbury, Mass. Employees have demanded the reinstatement of Arthur T. Demoulas, who was ousted. (Photo by Joanne Rathe/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
TEWKSBURY, MA - JULY 18: On the bus with Market Basket workers from two Fitchburg stores were transported to the rally courtesy of two employees that work there. They cheer as they leave the rally at the Demoulas Super Markets/Market Basket Headquarters in Tewksbury, Mass. Employees have demanded the reinstatement of Arthur T. Demoulas, who was ousted. (Photo by Joanne Rathe/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BURLINGTON, MA - JULY 13: Market Basket employee Chris Conte, 16, pushes a stack of shopping carts past a sign in support of ousted Market Basket president Arthur T. Demoulas posted outside of the Market Basket in Burlington, Mass. on July 13, 2014. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
ANDOVER, MA - JULY 18: Supporters mobbed embattled Market Basket CEO Arthur T. Demoulas, left, as he arrived for a board meeting at the Wyndham Hotel in Andover, Thursday, July 18, 2013. (Photo by Wendy Maeda/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
TEWKSBURY, MA - JULY 18: Larry Frost, a cashier at a Billerica, Mass. Market Basket, wears black tape on his badge, saying he is in mourning over the Arthur T. Demoulas outster. Employees have demanded the reinstatement of Demoulas. (Photo by Joanne Rathe/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
TEWKSBURY, MA - JULY 21: Yogesh Patel, a janitor at store 170 in Billerica, Mass., cheers at a rally in support of former Market Basket CEO Arthur T. Demoulas. Thousands of Market Basket employees, former employees, customers and supporters rallied in Tewksbury, Mass. on July 21, 2014. Photo by Dina Rudick/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
TEWKSBURY, MA - JULY 21: Richard Cruz Jr., 6, sits atop the shoulders of his father, also named Richard Cruz, at a rally in support of former Market Basket CEO Arthur T. Demoulas. Cruz Sr. works in the produce department of store 68 in Brockton, Mass. Photo by Dina Rudick/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
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For the past week, warehouse workers have refused to make deliveries to Market Basket's stores, leaving fruit, vegetable, seafood and meat shelves empty. Workers have held huge protest rallies and organized boycott petitions through social media, attracting thousands of supporters.

Customers are defecting to other grocery stores. In some cases, customers have taped receipts from competitors to Market Basket windows.

"We are going to go somewhere else from now on," said Soraya DeBarros, as she walked through a depleted produce department at the Market Basket in West Bridgewater this week. "I'm sad about it because of course I want to keep the low prices, but I want to support the workers."

Despite threats by new management to fire any workers who fail to perform their duties, some 300 warehouse workers and 68 drivers have refused to make deliveries. So far, eight supervisors have been fired. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, who is running for governor, and New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan have publicly supported the employees.

"If you had told me that workers at a grocery store would walk out to save the job of a CEO, I would say that's incredible. There is usually such a gulf between the worker and the CEO," said Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University in Worcester.

Market Basket stores have long been a fixture in Massachusetts. The late Arthur Demoulas - grandfather of Arthur S. and Arthur T. and a Greek immigrant - opened the first store in Lowell nearly a century ago. Gradually, Market Basket became a regional powerhouse, with 25,000 employees and 71 stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.

The feud dates back to the 1970s, but the most recent round of infighting began last year when Arthur S. Demoulas gained control of the board of directors. Last month, the board fired Arthur T., sparking the current uprising.

Workers are fiercely loyal to Arthur T.

"You know the movie, 'It's a Wonderful Life.' He's George Bailey," said Tom Trainor, a district supervisor who worked for the company for 41 years before being fired last weekend over the protests. "He's just a tremendous human being that puts people above profits. He can walk through a store, and if he's met you once, he knows our name, he knows your wife, your husband, your kids, where they are going to school."

Employees said they believe the fight between the family members loyal to Arthur T. and Arthur S. is largely over money and the direction of the company. They say Arthur S. and his supporters have pressed for a greater return to shareholders.

Arthur T. and his supporters have focused on keeping prices low.

Many employees are distrustful of Arthur S. and two co-chief executives who were brought in from outside the company: Felicia Thornton, a former executive of the grocery chain Albertsons, and Jim Gooch, former president and chief executive at RadioShack Corp.

"I'm worried about my job," said Valerie Burke, a worker in the West Bridgewater store. "It's a great company to work for now, but we are worried it won't stay that way," she said as she picketed outside the store Tuesday.

Arthur S. has not spoken publicly, while Gooch and Thornton have communicated only through prepared statements. They assured workers in a statement that they are not planning drastic changes in the way the company is operated, and urged employees to return to work.

Arthur T. on Wednesday offered to buy the company for an undisclosed amount.

Gooch and Thornton declined to comment.

Workers have planned another rally Friday in Tewksbury, while the company's board of directors is scheduled to hold a meeting the same day in Boston.

Steve Paulenka, who started in 1974 as a bag boy and rose to facilities and operations manager before being fired last weekend, said he sees no end to protests unless Arthur T. is reinstated.

"A big part of me doesn't like what's going on - it's like breaking your favorite toy on purpose," he said. "But we'll get through this."

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