Market Basket’s corporate offices and board of directors have faced criticism over the past month for how they have handled public relations during the ongoing employee and customer protests in support of fired CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.
So it was interesting on Friday to see two statements to the press on the same day as a much-hyped board meeting, one from the board and the second from co-CEOs Felicia Thornton and James Gooch. And it was doubly interesting in how the two statements differed, especially in terms of how they addressed protesting employees.
An excerpt from the first statement, released by the board of directors early Friday afternoon, which you can read in full here:
“The negative behavior of certain current and former associates is at variance with the Company’s culture of putting the needs of the Market Basket customers first. It is now clear that it is in the interests of all members of the Market Basket community for normal business operations to resume immediately.’’
Compare that with a separate statement, released last night around 7:30 from Thornton and Gooch, reading in part:
“We welcome back associates who are committed to Market Basket’s customers. There will be no penalty or discipline for any associate who joins in what will be a significant effort to return to the unparalleled level of performance and customer service that have been hallmarks of the Market Basket brand.’’
You can read that full statement here. It’s certainly a softer touch than the board’s. And it goes back on a statement from a letter to employees from the co-CEOs on July 17 that said any employees who “abandon’’ their job responsibilities would be “permanently replaced.’’ Many employees have said that threat furthered their resolve to take action against the executives and the board.
Based on conversations with protesters, as well as a gauge of the mood of employees on social media, the more conciliatory approach is unlikely to do much. Protesters have repeatedly said nothing short of the reinstatement of Arthur T. Demoulas as CEO will end the rallies and boycotts that have brought business at the chain to a standstill in the past week. As a result, protests are expected to continue into the weekend.