News

‘Mr. Demoulas is going to win this’ Milford Market Basket employees hang tough

Thursday, July 31, 2014

By KATHY CLEVELAND

Staff Writer

MILFORD – A customer bringing several cans of cat food to the checkout counter looked a little sheepish as she walked by Mark Sturzo.

“You get whatever you need,” the assistant store manager reassured her with a smile.

The parking lot had only a couple dozen cars and there were more employees than shoppers in the Milford Market Basket supermarket Tuesday morning as the conflict between the corporation’s board of directors and employees went into its second full week.

Last month the board of directors for the Tewksbury, Mass.-based chain fired Arthur T. Demoulas, “Artie T” as employees call him, sparking protests by store employees and delivery drivers, who halted shipments to stores.

The customer, Barbara Fredette, of Lyndeborough, said she wants to support the boycott that employees have been urging.

“I’m with them. People can’t afford the higher prices at the other markets,” she said.

Sturzo, a 36-year Market Basket employee, seemed upbeat. Workers are cleaning and getting shelves organized and are “ready to roll,” he said.

“Mr. Demoulas is going to win this. It’s just a matter of time.”

Other area supermarkets are seeing the benefits, and the costs, of Market Basket’s problems.

At Shaw’s Supermarket in Milford the parking lot is full of cars each day.

Marilyn Martus, in the Market Basket bakery department, said her brother and her daughter work in the supermarket at Walmart in Amherst.

“They are so crazy busy they can’t keep up,” she said. “People are killing themselves keeping the shelves full. they have never seen anything like this.”

Martus, who has worked here part time for nearly six years, said that before the Milford Market Basket opened she used to shop at the chain’s Nashua store to save money.

“People can’t afford to shop at Shaw’s,” she said, and at Market Basket “things had already started to change” for the worse, since Arthur T. Demoulas’s ouster, with prices going up.

Workers also are concerned that the chain’s longtime culture of customer service and generous employee benefits will erode.

Outside Market Basket on Tuesday morning, Rich Pirelli, assistant grocery manager, sat at a table as he waited for the employees’ daily rally to begin.

The public is supporting them, he said. When they rally near Route 101, and people drive by, “99 percent honk or give us a thumbs’ up.”

Pirelli, who is 30 and has been employed by Market Basket for 16 years, said he is not taking a paycheck, since he is not working, but other employees are still getting paid because they keep busy inside or they are taking time off, using vacation pay.

Last week, he said, a substitute driver for Market Basket tried to make a delivery here, but “he was supposed to go to Haverhill, Mass.

“We got into a huge yelling match. He called us lazy.”

The Market Basket board of directors reportedly held an emergency meeting on Monday to consider a buyout offer for half the company from Arthur T. Demoulas but agreed only to continue negotiating.

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