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Lawmakers urge boycott of Market Basket

Seventeen elected Massachusetts officials on Saturday called for an immediate boycott of Market Basket supermarkets and announced support for employees and members of the public who have protested the ousting of Arthur T. Demoulas as president.

Senator Barry R. Finegold, an Andover Democrat, started the movement Saturday afternoon, and said within a few hours he had numerous elected officials sign on.

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“We, the undersigned, stand today with the thousands of Market Basket employees who have walked out of their jobs in protest of the firing of their beloved CEO Arthur T. Demoulas,” the boycott document stated.

RELATED | Evan Horowitz: The saga of Demoulas’ Market Basket

“These employees know that Market Basket has been the chosen supermarket of so many people looking to save money on groceries,” said the statement, which added that the actions of the board and officers are “motivated by corporate greed and will only serve to destroy the legacy the Demoulas family has worked generations to establish.”

In a phone interview Saturday evening, Finegold said the boycott is “about the employees and it’s about the customers.”

The statement did not urge any specific actions by the Market Basket management, but in the interview, Finegold said, “We want the shareholders of Market Basket to listen to their employees . . . who are willing to lose their jobs to stand up for what’s right.”

On Friday, more than 2,000 supporters of Arthur T. Demoulas traveled from locations as far as Fitchburg and New Hampshire and gathered outside the Tewksury headquarters demanding the reinstatement of the chief executive.

Senator Sal N. DiDomenico was one of the 17 to sign on to the boycott. “I’ve definitely been a customer of Market Basket for many years,” said the Everett Democrat. “We have one in my district in Chelsea. . . . I support the employees 100 percent.”

DiDomenico called the workers’ actions courageous.

Representatives of Arthur T. Demoulas and Arthur S. Demoulas, who now controls the board, could not be reached for comment Saturday.

RELATED: Ouster at the top at Market Basket

Facilities and operations supervisor Steve Paulenka, one of the protest organizers, said the support from lawmakers was “fantastic.”

“All those people . . . have great ties to the community, as Market Basket does, and I’m sure they realize it,” he said.

Stores, he said, are already feeling the absence of workers, many of whom called in sick to attend Friday’s rally, and planned to remain off the job as long as it takes to get Arthur T. Demoulas back. Among them were warehouse workers, who coordinate deliveries to stores.

According to a Save Market Basket Facebook page, about 600 trucks usually go out to stores on Fridays and Saturdays. But with Friday’s rally and workers off the job, less than 4 percent of the normal deliveries had been made.

“If you happen to go to a store, you’re going to find the produce department decimated, the fish department decimated,” Paulenka said.

John Garon, a manager at a Market Basket in Burlington, said he visited a half-dozen stores Saturday and found them running out of product.

“You’re seeing holes everywhere. They’re out of watermelon, lettuce; the [prepackaged] salad walls are just completely empty,” he said. “That’s big money. Those things are between anywhere from $5 to $8 apiece.”

At the Salem store where his fiancée works, Garon said, things look pretty normal until you hit the back room.

“Literally empty,” he said. “Produce is empty. Meat is going to be next.”

When told of the lawmakers’ call for a boycott, Garon was excited.

“That is excellent,” he said. “Awesome, that is awesome.”

Finegold said he expects the boycott will gain rapid support from lawmakers and the business community.

Related coverage:

Market Basket workers plan protest despite threat by company

Workers demand reinstatement of ousted Market Basket leader

Evan Horowitz: The saga of Demoulas’ Market Basket

Market Basket workers seek to rally customers

“Save Market Basket” on Facebook

Derek J. Anderson can be reached at derek.anderson@globe.com. Erin Ailworth can be reached at erin.ailworth@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ailworth.
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