Amid word of at least six resignations from Market Basket’s corporate offices, an estimated 300 employees rallied Tuesday outside the Chelsea store in support of the company’s ousted president, Arthur T. Demoulas. Demoulas and two other executives were fired Monday.
“There have been more resignations than firings,” Sue Dufresne, formerly an accountant with the company who resigned Monday, told Boston.com.
In addition to Dufresne, Assistant Director of Operations David McLean has also resigned. According to people at the rally, several other senior level workers—CFO Dan Mulligan, Director of Advertising Jay Rainville, Executive Vice President Jim Miamis, and Deli Director Ronald Carignan—have also resigned. None of those four could be reached before this article was published, nor could Market Basket’s Tewksbury headquarters.
Vice President Joseph Rockwell and Director of Operations William Marsden were fired Monday along with Demoulas.
Demoulas’s firing Monday marked the latest chapter in a multi-year family dispute, the roots of which go back decades. His cousin of the same name, Arthur S. Demoulas, gained control of the company’s board last year and had attempted to fire Arthur T. shortly thereafter. That proposed action also drew a large rally of Market Basket employees and ultimately was squashed. But the board pulled the plug on Arthur T.’s stewardship Monday.
Tuesday’s rally in Chelsea saw several speakers, including McLean, Dufresne, and others with the company, address employees from as far as New Hampshire in the parking lot near the company’s largest store.
“There’s always anger, sorrow, and acceptance,” said John Sevastis, the manager of the company’s Fitchburg store. “Well, there’s no acceptance (this time). I cannot accept Arthur T. Demoulas not being my boss.”
Dufresne echoed similar feelings to the crowd.
“I’m so angry,” she said. “But I’m glad I’m angry, because if I wasn’t angry, I’d be bawling my eyes out.”
The crowd responded with applause and shouts, especially to echo the refrain of “We are Market Basket.”
However, those at the rally said they were unsure what would follow, or what the next steps might look like.
Luis Guerra, an employee who made the trip to Chelsea from the Danvers store, said he hoped the number of employees rallying could get customer and board attention, but admitted: “We don’t know what’s going to happen.”
“We’re not sure what to do,” added Dora Brown, who works in IT out of the company’s headquarters. “The point (of the rally) is to bring unity and show people we care. We are going to fight.”
None of the workers approached by Boston.com said they thought employees would look to unionize to protect their benefits, which includes a popular profit-sharing plan, from new leadership. Some members of the Save Market Basket Facebook page, which has more than 18,000 members, have suggested unionizing on the social network since Demoulas’s firing.
Tom Trainor, a district manager with Market Basket, said there might be other rallies, but none are planned. He said the group would continue to write letters and emails to the board. When he addressed the crowd, he repeatedly told them he was “not done fighting.”
McLean said the board had shunned Arthur T. Demoulas’s supporters within the company for over a year. Dufresne also said the next step was unclear.
“My hope is that somehow we’re back there” working under Arthur T., she said of herself and her colleagues who had resigned.
More than 70 Market Basket stores operate in New England. The company is profitable, with reported annual revenues of about $4 billion in recent years.
The company’s board installed two new leaders Monday to share the chief executive role—James Gooch, a former Radio Shack executive, and Felicia Thornton, formerly of supermarket company Albertsons.
“The board believes this new management team will enable Market Basket to maximize its potential and pave the way for continued success in the future,” the board said in a statement Monday.