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Market Basket accused of creating hostile workplace in NLRB filing

Market Basket employees and supporters jeered a car driving into the supermarket's headquarters in Tewksbury last week.


Market Basket employees and supporters jeered a car driving into the supermarket's headquarters in Tewksbury last week.

A Market Basket employee has filed a charge against the company with the National Labor Relations Board accusing the company of violating employees’ workplace rights.

The charge, a copy of which was obtained by the Globe, accuses the company of creating a hostile and unsafe workplace and violating employees’ “right to picket and strike.” A public record of the charge posted online categorized the charges as “coercive statements,” like threats, and “coercive actions,” like surveillance.

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The charge was filed on August 20 by Karen Bostwick, an employee at the company’s main office. Bostwick could not be reached for comment.

A spokesman for Market Basket said the company had not seen the complaint and could not comment.

Hundreds of employees walked off the job at Market Basket last month to protest the firing of former company president Arthur T. Demoulas. Arthur T. has been locked in a battle for the company with his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, for the past two decades. Last year, Arthur S. gained control of the company’s board of directors, which led to Arthur T.’s ouster.

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The firing galvanized the workforce to support Arthur T. and protect the company’s working conditions and generous salary and bonus structure. Middle managers and store directors urged customers to stay away until the dispute is resolved, which has led to millions of dollars in losses at the 71-store chain.

Under the National Labor Relations Act, a “charge” is different from a “complaint.” Between 20,000 and 30,000 charges are filed by employees and unions every year, according to the NLRB, and most of those are withdrawn or settled. Others are investigated, which the agency says can take seven to 12 weeks. A very small minority lead the NLRB to issue a complaint, which is brought before a labor judge.

Peter Moser, an attorney at Hirsch Roberts Weinstein who typically represents employers, said that employees had a right to undertake “protected concerted activities,” such as strikes, to defend their wages, benefits, and employment terms.

He and other attorneys previously interviewed by the Globe have said the question hinged on whether the presidency of Arthur T. Demoulas was a “term or condition of employment.”

Moser said the NLRB could act swiftly on a complaint by seeking an injunction if the threat to employees was imminent, but said he was skeptical the labor board would take such a step in this case.

Jack Newsham can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TheNewsHam.
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