Generations ago, it was not unusual to see a family-owned enterprise staffed by loyal employees. While the work may have been tedious and the hours may have been long, there was a sense of family, of everyone in it together. When someone in a worker’s family was sick or died, a baby was born, or a child graduated or married, the owner paid personal attention.
That sounds like the stuff of fiction today. Corporations own most large businesses, and the likelihood of ever seeing, let alone meeting, the owner is as slim as taking a trip to the moon.
Corporate ownership for the most part is more and more focused on the bottom line – for stockholders. Staffing has been cut back to the bone, raises no longer exist, benefits have gone by the wayside – all that has come to be accepted as the norm.
But now comes the backlash at Market Basket, and it’s based on a family feud that goes back generations. Who knew that Market Basket employees were so loyal to their top boss, Arthur T. Demoulas? What we do know is that Arthur T. visited his stores, got to know his workers, paid attention to their interests, and provided good pay and benefits.
What did he get in return? Staff loyalty, not a small thing by a long shot but a rarity today.
With the deposing of Arthur T. by his cousin Arthur S. and his cousin’s supporters on the Market Basket board, the grocery employees are indeed concerned that their way of work is going to be a thing of the past. So they began picketing, making demands on the board, and rallying for the return of Arthur T.
That resulted in empty shelves and more than a few firings. And many customers, as loyal to shopping at Market Basket as its employees are to Arthur T., are supporting the store workers, rather than reacting angrily to the disruption of their food supply. In some cases, they’ve joined the picket line.
This isn’t a union rising up against management. It’s a non-union workforce seeking the return of its management. That’s not something you hear of every day.
It’s possible the new Market Basket top executives, brought in from Albertsons and RadioShack, will take kindly to Arthur T’s proposal to buy out the company. The workers would be happy in that instance.
Or instead, the board may decide to take on debt to boost dividends. And if that happens, the worker, and ultimately the customer, is likely to be the one paying the price.
And wouldn’t it be grand if it would serve as inspiration to taxpayers, who could unite in rebelling against elected officials who hear the calls for reduced expenses and nevertheless produce budgets that are higher than the previous year.