Market Basket workers continue to picket at locations throughout the region, encouraging customers to boycott the stores. Employees say they want ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas reinstated.
The number of protesters outside the Market Basket store on Main Street in Tewksbury has more than doubled. Many wear t-shirts proclaiming simply "ATD" for Arthur T. Demoulas. At the petition table there are pages and pages of signatures.
Standing among the picketers, head cashier Juan Acevedo is triumphant.
"Every time I go to work, I don't want to go to Market Basket because I spend so much time in Market Basket but today I love being here," he said.
Acevedo is still working his normal hours at the store, but he says there's nothing to do.
"There's only one register going on right now — and we usually have about seven, eight registers," he said.
A red, white and blue portrait of Demoulas is taped to one of the store's glass doors. It's in the iconic style of an Obama campaign poster and says, "I believe."
Inside, the store is deserted except for a few customers who move slowly through the aisles like ghosts. Yesterday, just the fresh produce was gone — now even the dish soap section has gaping empty spaces. Assistant manager Kevin Levesque says support for the protesting workers is growing.
"Day two is different in that customers seem to be backing up Market Basket employees," Levesque said. "They're not coming in to the stores. As much as we hate it, we have to stay strong and do what's right for the company and Arthur T. and the rest of the supervision team that was fired."
Levesque says he hasn't received directions from the new management about how to operate during the protests.
"We're standing here, we have no more supervision," he said. "So it's tough on us, it's very tough on us. We have to speak and tell how we feel."
About five miles away, former warehouse workers have set up camp across the street from the Market Basket distribution center. A small tent provides the only shade and empty water bottles litter the grass. Tom Gordon smokes a cigar and says he's unemployed for the first time in his adult life. He was fired Sunday after 39 years with Market Basket.
"If I have to, at some point I'll do something else," he said. "But for the time being, for the forseeable future, I'm okay."
Gordon hopes the new Market Basket leadership will reconsider its recent actions as store shelves grow bare. Fired warehouse supervisor Dean Joyce says the company won't be able to recover without him and his workers.
"They brought in a few … we'll call them substitute workers," Joyce said. "But those guys couldn't shine the shoes of my guys. They couldn't shine the shoes. And maybe they have six guys in there trying to fill in for me. Good luck to them. Two, they are in way over their heads. They have no idea what they're doing. I have three things to say: A-T-D, number one!"
In a statement, Demoulas said reinstating the fired workers is in the best interest of Market Basket and its customers. New Market Basket co-CEOs Felicia Thornton and James Gooch responded with a statement of their own, saying the fired employees had harmed the company and made it difficult for Market Basket to serve its customers.
"We understand the strain and emotion facing Market Basket associates," Thornton and Gooch said in the statement. "We know and understand that trust and acceptance are earned and cannot be demanded or imposed."
The two new CEOs said they're committed to earning trust. They asked that employees and customers judge them on their actions going forward.