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Market Basket workers stay off the job

The deadline for hundreds of protesting Market Basket employees to return to work or be fired passed mostly without incident Friday, with an arrest marring an otherwise uneventful protest outside the grocery chain’s Tewksbury headquarters.

Although around 200 Market Basket employees who walked off the job in July were warned on Monday that they would be fired for job abandonment if they did not return to their posts by Friday, workers who defied the letter said they received no communication from the company regarding their employment status.

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Another 200 workers were sent letters the next day and told to return to work by Monday.

Protesters outside the Market Basket headquarters said few if any employees ordered to report to work had given up their protests. A source at the Market Basket warehouse in Andover said none of the employees at that warehouse who were sent warning letters came to work Friday.

Spokesmen for Market Basket did not respond to questions about the employment status or workplace presence of the employees who received warning letters Monday.

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Outside of Market Basket’s Tewksbury headquarters, home to its main office and a grocery warehouse, workers demanding the reinstatement of company president Arthur T. Demoulas and sympathetic customers continued to picket. They held signs, encouraged cars to honk, and marched in circles in the headquarters’ driveways, heckling delivery drivers and personnel who passed in and out.

“Everyone is just holding firm here,” said Tom Trainor, one of eight senior Market Basket employees fired in late July who has led protests. “We still believe we’re gonna win this thing.”

The relative calm of the protest was interrupted around 3 p.m., however, when a replacement truck driver working for Market Basket was arrested after brandishing a hammer at protesters picketing in one of the warehouse’s driveways.

Jon Dixon, a Market Basket employee who was at the protest and witnessed the incident, said the driver was subdued by police after exiting his truck and approaching picketing protesters with a hammer.

Dixon described the driver as belligerent before he was arrested, shouting at protesters from his truck on his way into the parking lot and stopping his truck only a few feet away from protesters on his way out before exiting his cab and approaching them with a hammer.

“He was very, very aggressive,” said Dixon, who noted that protesters had heckled the driver just like they did other replacement drivers on their way in and out of the warehouse. “He was hanging out of the window of his cab.”

In a statement, a Market Basket spokesman condemned the driver and said he and the trucking company that hired him had been fired by Market Basket.

Photos and videos posted to Twitter and Facebook showed the driver’s truck to be painted entirely black, with spiked accents and no visible registration information on the cab. Dixon, the witness, said small pictures of skulls were on the cab.

Tewksbury police said that one man was in custody in relation to the incident, but said they would not provide further comment until Saturday.

Jack Newsham can be reached at jack.newsham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheNewsHam.
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