As the growing public dispute over leadership at the Market Basket supermarket chain dominated the headlines in recent days, political contenders saw an opening to weigh in, despite the conflict being an internal one involving a privately held company.
Attorney General Martha Coakley, one of the three Democratic hopefuls for governor, released a statement Sunday supporting workers rallying behind ousted president Arthur T. Demoulas, who was fired in late June by a board controlled by his cousin and chief rival, Arthur S. Demoulas.
“The actions of thousands of Market Basket employees over the last days have been truly inspiring. They are putting their jobs on the line — with little or no protection from reprisals from current management - to stand up for the simple principle that workers deserve to be treated with respect and their voices deserve to be heard,” she said in the statement released by her campaign.
The Globe reported today that eight Market Basket employees were fired Sunday, including organizers of a protest that has targeted the grocery chain in recent days by workers pressing for the return of Arthur T. Demoulas.
A spokesman for the Attorney General in her official office, Christopher Loh, did not directly respond to an e-mailed question about whether Coakley's statement indicated she was interested in taking action related to Market Basket in her capacity as the state’s chief law enforcement official.
Instead he said in a statement of his own that “If terminated Market Basket employees have questions or concerns about the circumstances of their dismissal or the rights they are now afforded, we encourage them to call our office...”
Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Donald M. Berwick was quick to issue a statement affirming that he stood by the workers, but said in an interview he wasn’t going to take a stand on “the particular workings of the management.”
State senators, including Barry R. Finegold of Andover and Eileen M. Donoghue of Lowell, were among the speakers at a rally today calling for the return of the ousted president.
Finegold, a candidate for treasurer, said he is one of more than 30 Massachusetts elected officials who have signed a letter calling for a boycott of Market Basket.
In a telephone interview, he said he got involved because the company is headquartered in his district and the workers deserve support.
“It’s about these employees and the fact that so many of them have worked hard and taken care of our families, it’s time for us to stand tall with them and their families,” he said.
Donoghue said she had known and worked with Arthur T. Demoulas for years and that Market Basket is integral to Lowell and the surrounding communities.
“It’s not just an isolated commercial and business situation, it’s affecting the lives of so many,” she said.
“I don’t know how you stand on the sideline and not get involved and at least support the cause. to me it’s no-brainer,” the senator added.
The protests and the firings are the latest development in a long-running conflict over the leadership of the grocery chain, which has 71 stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.