The growing number of Market Basket protests, fired employees, and empty shelves are starting to make their impact felt in the 2014 election cycle and the broader political scene in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
On Wednesday, Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone wrote in a statement that he supports the “right of employees to take a stand,” and reflected on his time working at Market Basket in his earlier years. “I experienced the family atmosphere among the employees and saw managers take the time to care for employees young and old,” he wrote in the personal statement. “I remember my grandmother being surprised in the checkout line by a birthday celebration put together by the store’s employees, complete with cake.”
Curtatone joins both Massachusetts gubernatorial frontrunners in speaking out on the Market Basket crisis, calling the actions by the company’s employees “inspiring” and “admirable.” In New Hampshire, Senate candidates Scott Brown and Jeanne Shaheen, along with Governor Maggie Hassan, have weighed in as well.
Employees at Market Basket, the popular supermarket chain, have led a series of protests and rallies at Tewksbury headquarters to demand the reinstatement of recently deposed CEO Arthur T. Demoulas. Employee refusals to deliver goods to the stores have left shelves low on supplies, and a rally this morning in support of employees featured about 5,000 attendees.
Attorney General Martha Coakley, the Democratic candidate for Governor, noted her support for the protests on Sunday in a statement to The Boston Globe. “The actions of thousands of Market Basket employees over the last days have been truly inspiring,” she said.
Coakley added to those statements in a phone call with Boston.com on Monday. “I think it’s encouraging to see the amount of support [they have received] in a very short amount of time,” she said. “I hope management will listen to this – they should.” Coakley explained that although she hasn’t shopped at Market Basket in about 15 or 20 years – there isn’t a store near her – she is good friends with a supplier of the supermarket, and so has heard first-hand how “wonderful” the company is. She said she has no plans yet to visit a rally, but has been following the protests day by day.
Charlie Baker, Coakley’s likely Republican opponent in the gubernatorial race, used similar, albeit less enthusiastic language. “I admire the employees for letting their voices be heard,” Baker told Boston.com in an email. “At the same time, Market Basket is a private company and so we can only hope that an amicable resolution, protecting the jobs of everyone involved, can be found quickly so that their workers can continue to be proud to work there.” Baker’s admiration is a bit more reserved of a position than Coakley’s talk of being inspired.
The Market Basket story was tackled by several politicians in New Hampshire, too.
Republican Scott Brown, the former Massachusetts senator and current New Hampshire Senate candidate, did not show his hand either way when asked about Market Basket at a roundtable in Concord today. “I think it’s obviously a family issue that is affecting employees, I hope they get it resolved quickly so the employees aren’t hurt,” he said, according to a spokeswoman.
Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen, running for reelection against Brown later this year, offered her support for the employees. “Their workers are standing up for what they believe is right and they should be applauded for doing so,” she said in an email to Boston.com. “I hope the dispute can be resolved quickly to end the disruption to both workers and customers.”
New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan posted a statement on her website showing her support on Monday.
“It’s heartening to see just how much the workers of Market Basket value the company and respect its past, present and future. Their demonstrations reinforce the strong bond that the company has developed with its employees through decades of fair treatment, support and respect, a bond that has had a positive impact on New Hampshire consumers. I encourage Market Basket leadership to continue in that spirit by listening to their employees’ concerns and seeking to quickly address the situation with a focus on keeping their dedicated workers employed and reducing the impact on customers.”
In addition to those candidates, more than 30 Massachusetts officials, led by Democratic State Senator Barry R. Finegold, signed on to a boycott of Market Basket stores in support of the protesting employees. “It’s been an incredible response,” Finegold said. “We haven’t really had anybody who’s said no so far.” Finegold, who is running for state treasurer, was one of several political speakers at a Market Basket rally this morning as well.
A spokesperson for Governor Deval Patrick confirmed he has not yet made any statements on the issue.