Market Basket Protests Persist on Day of Deadline to Return to Work

08/0614: Andover, MA: A Job Fair for potential hires at Market Basket was held at a company distribution center in Andover. The event was for people who do not currently work for the company. Current and former employees were outside, marching, chanting,and jeering as their potential replacements arrived and left, some in cars, some on foot. Here former executive Steve Paulenka urges marchers to remain civil and to give cars coming and going enough space. He warned that company people who were recording the events were waiting for them to do something wrong to get on video. (Globe Staff Photo/Jim Davis) section:metro topic:07demoulas
Market Basket protesters faced a deadline to return to work on Friday, August 15. This photo is from an August 6 protest at a company job fair held with the intention to replace some workers.
Jim Davis/The Boston Globe

A trucker driving for Market Basket was arrested by Tewksbury Police after allegedly leaving his truck and engaging with protesters while holding a hammer outside company headquarters Friday afternoon.

Tewksbury Police confirmed the incident and arrest to Boston.com shortly after it occurred. Media reports identified the man Friday night as Ira Forbes of Brooklyn, NY. He faces charges of disorderly conduct and assault.

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WBZ’s website has more information on the incident:

WBZ-TV's Ken MacLeod reports that the driver got out of the truck with something at his side wrapped in a towel. There was an exchange of words between the driver and the demonstrators. When police officers realized that the object in his hand was a hammer they quickly tackled him to the ground.

Market Basket has been using replacement truckers since employed truckers walked off the job on July 18 in protest of the firing of Arthur T. Demoulas as CEO. The use of replacement truckers has been criticized by protesters throughout this summer’s standoff.

A Market Basket spokesperson issued a statement following the arrest saying the trucker, and the trucking company he worked for, will no longer be working with the grocery chain.

“We are thankful that local police intervened and that no one was injured. Market Basket of course condemns the driver’s actions. Both the driver and the company for which he worked have been terminated, effective immediately.”

The Market Basket spokesperson told Boston.com the driver worked with large Arkansas-based trucking company J.B. Hunt, which had been working with Market Basket. J.B. Hunt did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Market Basket headquarters and warehouse workers held the line at corporate offices in Tewksbury Friday despite facing a deadline to return to work or risk losing their jobs.

Many workers facing that deadline have remained steadfast that they will not return without the reinstatement of Arthur T. Demoulas. The former leader, who is still a major shareholder, remains in negotiations to buy-out Market Basket from his rival family members, including his cousin Arthur S. Demoulas. The animosity between the two sides was laid bare Thursday night in board meeting transcripts obtained by The Boston Globe.

Ahead of the deadline, some workers expressed their defiance toward the company’s current chief executives.

“I don’t work for them,” Rosie Vacirca, a headquarters worker told The Lowell Sun. “They can’t fire me.”

Anne Browne, an IT worker with the company, told Boston.com earlier this week: “Artie’s not in the office. If he’s not, I’m not.”

A Boston Globe source also told the paper no employees who had received the threat of job loss at the Andover warehouse reported for work today.

Market Basket did not respond to inquiries about the imposed deadline Friday afternoon.

There have been mixed signals from labor lawyers as to what would happen if the workers lose their jobs. The letter alerting employees to Friday’s deadline from co-CEOs Felicia Thornton and James Gooch was carefully worded to suggest those who do not arrive at work will have abandoned their positions. That language would suggest the employees had resigned rather than been terminated, potentially leaving them without much recourse. But other labor lawyers say non-management workers at headquarters and in the warehouses may be protected during the work stoppage. “Even though there’s no union in the picture, these employees are withholding their services collectively and that is a strike,” attorney Keith McCown told The Boston Herald. In other words, such action could get pretty messy.

Meanwhile, about 40 clergy representatives from Merrimack Valley signed a statement calling for resolution Friday, according to The Herald.

Away from headquarters, Market Basket store managers have been directed to remove signage from stores that is supportive of the ongoing protest movement. That message has also been met with some defiance. “Unless I’m told by Arthur T. Demoulas to take down these signs, they’re staying up,” John Sevastis, store director at one of the company’s Fitchburg supermarkets, told Boston.com Thursday.

And on social media, protesting customers are planning a Saturday evening rally in Tewksbury. A separate rally was planned for Friday evening in New Hampshire. NECN has details on both rallies.

In some ways, the scene outside headquarters Friday looked more like a tailgating party than a protest.

Some roasted a whole lamb on a spitfire grill. Since it takes at least 25 minutes per pound for lamb to reach cooked form, it seems these folks were digging in for a long day.

The company that became the Market Basket chain was founded nearly 100 years ago, and is said to specialized in fresh lamb.