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When dust settles, will workers still have a voice?

A Market Basket truck passed above Interstate 93 near the Wilmington store, whose employees had placed plastic cups in the fencing to spell Arthur T. Demoulas’s initials.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Over the last month, the nation has been riveted by Market Basket employees fighting to determine who will be their future boss. Their actions, which are on the cutting edge of the struggle for economic democracy, will hopefully inspire workers at other companies to do the same.

However, now that a settlement appears near, we should be sober about the limits of so-called enlightened executives. Arthur T. Demoulas is squarely in the tradition of many past Boston-area bosses. Prior to Market Basket, Edwin Land (Polaroid), An Wang (Wang Computers), Aaron Feuerstein (Malden Mills), Ken Olsen (Digital Equipment), and many others tried to do the right thing. They may have been enlightened, but when the going got tough, they either maximized profits or got pushed out.

The eventual consequences for employees are usually the same: wage and benefit cuts, layoffs, and less compassion for the front-line worker. That’s why union organization and the collective bargaining process are so important. It gives workers a much-needed opportunity to fight back against unreasonable changes and a real voice in their future.

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Rand Wilson
Somerville

Rand Wilson is communications and policy director at Service Employees International Union Local 888 in Charlestown.