Tuesday was another upbeat day at what Market Basket protesters are calling “Camp Artie T” – or “The Arthur T Tailgate” – with music, burgers and hot dogs on the grill, cornhole games and touch football – interrupted only occasionally by booing for replacement drivers moving Market Basket trailers out of the supermarket chain’s distribution center across the street.
By afternoon, workers were feeling especially encouraged after a Boston Globe report that at that time, Arthur T. Demoulas’s bid to buy out the 50.5 percent of the company controlled by his cousin-enemy Arthur S. Demoulas’s faction was the “only deal on the table” and the only bid being “actively considered” by the board of directors, now controlled by the Arthur S. faction. Arthur T. was fired June 23 after Arthur S. gained control of the board, and thousands of the 71-store chain’s 25,000 workers have picketed, protested, walked off the job, and encouraged shoppers to boycott the store until Arthur T. is reinstated.
“I really hope that that goes through, I really do, because i don't want the company to change at all,” said Chris Conner, who works in the dairy and frozen food department at the Stadium Plaza Tewksbury near the Lowell line.
Steve Paulenka, one of eight fired Market Basket managers loyal to Arthur T. who has been a major speaker and rallier at protests, said, “It’s a big deal. A lot of T's to cross and I’s to dot.” But Paulenka added he and others were “very hopeful” it would happen.
About 2 hours after the Globe story, a person authorized by the board of directors to speak for them who asked not to be named or to have the spokesperson’s firm named issued a statement that challenged but didn’t exactly deny the Globe report: “As the Board has previously noted, it is currently engaged in a rigorous and active process to consider strategic alternatives for the Company, including its possible sale. Despite reports to the contrary, Arthur T. Demoulas is but one of several potential buyers for the Company who continue to express a strong interest in purchasing the Company. While Mr. Demoulas’ offer provides a path toward solving many of the problems he has helped to create, it is but one alternative among the options the Board is reviewing. The Board will continue to evaluate all of the alternatives and ultimately make its recommendation to shareholders. However, the Board has no authority or right to force shareholders to accept an offer as that decision rests solely with the Company’s shareholders.”
While the board is saying many others are interested in buying the chain and the Arthur T. bid is “one alternative among the options,” the statement did not specifically refute the Globe’s report that as of Tuesday afternoon, the Arthur T. bid was the only one being actively considered and the only one for which lawyers and investment bankers were actively trying to negotiate terms – as other offers and options hadn’t been rejected but weren’t actively being worked on.
Industry analysts have valued Market Basket, which has reported annual sales of $4 to $4.6 billion and an unusually strong profit margin of 7.2 percent in a cutthroat industry, as high as $3.5 billion. It’s not known how much Arthur T. has offered for the 50.5 percent stake controlled by the Arthur S. faction.
Bob Jones, a Market Basket refrigeration technician from Wilmington picketing in front of the company’s headquarters, said he thinks the seven-person board, which still includes two pro-Arthur T. members, is realizing just how little Market Basket will be worth if most of its 25,000 employees remain in rebellion.
“It's not worth squat, to tell you the truth,” Jones said. “I don't see it being worth anything to anybody else, because the employees won't work for anybody else. The only way we're going to go back to work is if Arthur T comes back, because we feel as though the other side's just going to wipe out our jobs.”
“We don't want to lose this company,” said Krystal Deveaux, who works at the Stadium Plaza Market Basket. “It means a lot to us.”
She and other employees said they’re confident if Arthur T. regained control of the company, within a matter of days operations would be back to normal and shoppers would be welcomed back by ecstatic employees.
“Everybody would be pumped up to work,” Conner said, predicting that restocking shelves that have gone nearly empty in many stores and reactivating normal operations would take “less than a week. We’d be pumped up that he's back.”
“We’d all be happy, back to work,” agreed Juan Acevedo, head cashier at the same store. And Deveaux said: “Everyone would be very happy, and we would be very happy to have our customers and everybody back.”
With videographer Nik Saragosa