BOSTON (AP) — Executives at the troubled Market Basket supermarket chain in New England stepped up their efforts Monday to fight back against a workers' revolt and customer boycott that have paralyzed the company and drawn attention for their unusual demand to reinstate the previous CEO.
The company had set up a job fair for its workers to replace colleagues who walked off the job to protest the firing of CEO Arthur T. Demoulas. But in a statement, newly appointed co-CEOs Felicia Thornton and Jim Gooch said they heard from many employees who are "concerned for their safety" if they attend the fair, which began Monday. Market Basket said it established an email address so employees can apply for other jobs without attending the fair.
Market Basket operates 71 stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. The family-owned chain has been plagued by infighting for decades featuring Demoulas and his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas. In June, a board controlled by Arthur S. Demoulas fired his cousin as CEO, prompting protest rallies attended by thousands of Market Basket employees and supporters who say he kept prices low and treated them well.
Hundreds of warehouse employees and drivers have refused to work for the past two weeks, leaving store shelves severely depleted and prompting customers to shop elsewhere. The employees, supported by many boycotting customers, have demanded the reinstatement of the previous CEO.
On Monday, Thornton and Gooch said they were allowing employees to apply for new jobs via email because they feel "associates interested in opportunity should be given an opportunity without fear of intimidation or harassment."
But organizers of the protests said they believe that few, if any, Market Basket employees will attend the job fair.
"That's a smokescreen," said Tom Trainor, a district supervisor who worked for Market Basket for 41 years before being fired last month for helping to organize the protests.
"There's been no violence at all. For them to say they had many inquiries is baloney. They don't know our culture. Our people aren't going to applying for jobs to replace people."
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