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Employees Fight to Save Market Basket CEO Arthur T. Demoulas

A power struggle will come to a head Thursday.

Nuno Cabral and Stefanie Faria, both Peabody residents and longtime employees at the Market Basket in Danvers, are hoping to save CEO Arthur T. Demoulas' job. Credit: John Castelluccio
Nuno Cabral and Stefanie Faria, both Peabody residents and longtime employees at the Market Basket in Danvers, are hoping to save CEO Arthur T. Demoulas' job. Credit: John Castelluccio
Market Basket employees have been out in front of stores across New England in recent days, including in Danvers, gathering signatures from customers for a petition to "save" their company, in particular current CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.

Employees say they fear new corporate leadership will usher in higher prices, create debt and cut jobs, profit-sharing and benefits for employees.

The battle of the heirs of the Market Basket chain appears to be coming to a head this week as one side of the family battles for control over one of the region’s most successful grocery chains, according to the Lowell Sun.

The board of directors is scheduled to meet on July 18 to vote to oust Demoulas, a son of one of the founders, who has been in control of the company since 2008. That effort is led by Arthur S. Demoulas, the cousin of the CEO, who is also a son of one of the founders.

Arthur S. gained control of the board earlier this year and board members in favor of ousting Arthur T. criticize him for spending recklessly and ignoring the board.

Back in Danvers, employees started gathering signatures on Saturday and turned in more than 2,400 of the more than 40,000 signatures collected at 71 stores in New England. That petition was then sent to the company's corporate offices.

Following up on the initial effort to save Arthur T. at the Tewksbury and Chelmsford stores, Danvers employee Stefanie Faria then called around to the stores in Gloucester, Middleton and Salem to get going on the petition as well.

That culminated in a rally Tuesday evening. Faria said there were about 30 employees outside the Danvers store and even a couple customers to support the effort.

Store manager Brian Rockwell confirmed the efforts by employees were entirely voluntary and said customers were even asking about the petition unsolicited. He noted that the company is debt-free now and employees who work more than 20 hours per week get a share of the profits.

Faria, who lives in Peabody, started working at Market Basket when she was 14. Now 11 years later and an assistant head cashier, she says it's her career and really "a second home."

"When I'm not at home, I'm here working," she said. "We're all a family here."

"The current CEO is doing a great job," she said. "He's done everything he can for us."

Faria added that Arthur T. Demoulas regularly visits the stores, is on a first name basis with all full-time employees, chats with customers and even attends employees' family funerals.

She said employees -- there are 650 employees at the Danvers store -- are worried Arthur S. will raise prices for customers, add debt to the company and cut back on health benefits, jobs and profit-sharing. She said he's already indicated he would do that if he gains control.

Faria believes the reason behind the power struggle is simple: greed.

Nuno Cabral, another Peabody resident who's worked at the store for 14 years, said he's been collecting signatures and getting the word out as well.

"The biggest thing is the uncertainty, not knowing what's going to happen," he said, in regard to the board's pending decision.

Shoppers largely say they patronize Market Basket because of the low prices, and yes, customer service. Shoppers inside the packed Danvers store Wednesday said they felt raising prices would only drive customers away.

Samantha Haskell said that's why her family shops there. "It's cheaper than most places. We wouldn't come here otherwise, we'd go to Price Rite."

Haskell lives in Lynn and normally shops at the Salem store, but happened to be in Danvers on Wednesday.

An online "Save Market Basket" petition has also received more than 41,000 signatures and there's also a separate Facebook page dedicated to keep Arthur T. as CEO.

The Danvers Market Basket is the anchor store in Endicott Plaza.

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