In what has become a common occurrence during the unbelievable recent developments in the Demoulas family saga, thousands of Market Basket employees rallied in Tewksbury on Friday.
Organizers had said Friday’s rally would be the biggest yet as part of efforts to reinstall former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas, who was fired in June. They delivered on that promise. Organizers said they expected 10,000 people in the parking lot of the chain’s Stadium Plaza store, though police offered an unofficial estimate to The Boston Globe of 6,000 to 7,000. An organizer pegged the number closer to 15,000. In any event, there were a lot of people.
The last two rallies—one last Friday at the company’s headquarters, drawing about 2,500 employees, and one Monday at Stadium Plaza, drawing at least 5,000—came with marching orders for protesting employees and customers. The chain has since seen business collapse as customers have boycotted, managers have refused deliveries, employees have rallied outside stores, and stores have run dry of perishable products.
Friday’s rally wasn’t without its own directive, which was: Keep it up, until Demoulas is CEO again.
But more so, the event served as an opportunity for employees and customers to give a show of strength and unity. Speakers at the rally still expressed their distaste for the company’s past management and recalled stories of their leader-in-exile, Demoulas. However, speeches were also draped with of gratitude for employees’ and customers’ efforts thus far, and pride in their collective efforts.
Channelling Lou Gehrig, former warehouse supervisor Dean Joyce, who was fired last weekend, said to the crowd: “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth to hang with all of you and consider you my family.”
That sentiment was echoed by grocery supervisor Tom Gordon, who was also among the management-level employees fired Sunday. “It has been a pleasure and honor to work with you all these years,” he told the crowd.
As had been the case at the last two rallies, customers also showed up in droves. Among them was 94-year-old Sal Pilla, who spoke at the event. “You love the people, and the people love you back,” he told the crowd.
Politicians, including State Senator Barry Finegold, who started calls among elected officials to boycott the stores, spoke at the event, as they did Monday. A mention of Governor Deval Patrick and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren drew boos from the crowd. Neither has yet taken a public stance on the ongoing Market Basket situation.
Before the rally officially started, it had an atmosphere akin to a festival. Monday’s crowd appeared to have been topped by 8 a.m. Several school buses draped in signage in support of Demoulas trucked employees to the Tewksbury location, with chants of “Artie T.” ringing from inside them. Loudspeakers blared music, including covers of songs meant to reflect the Market Basket situation, and other classic protest tunes.
Beach balls sailed through the air, planes dragged sky advertisements (including one in support of Demoulas), hot dogs and sausages were served out of a truck, and a pep band played protest songs. (The band—the Leftist Marching Band out of Portsmouth, N.H.—supports progressive causes. One of its representatives, who goes by the pseudonym Charkee McGee, told Boston.com that supporting a wealthy executive “doesn’t fit our ideals,” but rallying for somebody who “is fair to employees” does.)
The rally came simultaneously with a Market Basket board of directors meeting in Boston. The board—which includes Arthur T. Demoulas’s arch-rival and cousin Arthur S.—was expected to at least discuss an offer from Arthur T. to buy out Arthur S. and his family members for control of the company. The Boston Globe also reports there may be other suitors out there, but it’s unclear if the ongoing boycotts and protests have had an effect on any of those potential offers.
Shortly after the rally ended, the board released a statement, saying in part that it will consider Arthur T.’s offer. Read the statement here.