Market Basket: Loyal workers are its best asset

A sign in support of Arthur T. Demoulas was posted in the window of the Market Basket in Burlington.
Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
A sign in support of Arthur T. Demoulas was posted in the window of the Market Basket in Burlington.

Firing the Market Basket workers who participated in Friday’s rally to support ousted president Arthur T. Demoulas would be a big mistake. The workers walked off the job to protest the firing of the much-loved executive; in a strictly legal sense, that might be grounds for dismissal. But if the new management follows through on its threats to dismiss the workers, it would only escalate a crisis that it should instead be working urgently to calm.

Arthur T. Demoulas’s firing was just the latest twist in a decades-long feud that has divided the Demoulas family. Although the 71-store chain has been very successful on his watch, other members of the family reportedly want more revenue returned to the owners. After years of trying, a rival faction led by his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, finally prevailed this year.

The chain’s 25,000 employees have largely sided with Arthur T. during the saga. That level of devotion is not, as the new managers seem to feel, a problem to be solved. Rather, it’s one of the company’s best assets. Firing workers so invested in the company, instead of working out a compromise with them, would just reinforce fears that the new management intends to ruin the very things shoppers and employees have loved about the company. After all, customers have plenty of big, bottom-line-oriented chains to choose from; Market Basket can either join that crowd, or stick to the distinctive approach that has made it so successful.

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