The Attorneys General of Massachusetts and New Hampshire have sent a letter to Market Basket CEOs Felicia Thornton and James Gooch asking them to be mindful of labor laws as they take action in the coming days.
The company responded with a statement saying they respect the Attorneys General position, and would follow all applicable laws. The statement said yet again that Market Basket does not want to fire employees. The company says its focused on getting back up and running.
The market basket management probably didn't mean to invigorate protests by setting a deadline for employees to return and posting ads for jobs, but that seems to be what happened.
More people than ever before are picketing across the street from the Market Basket headquarters in Tewksbury. It almost looks like a small village: there's a grilling section, another section where people smoke cigars, and the lawn, where people have set up chairs in the shade of a tree. They sit in a circle and talk for hours.
Steve Leathes was hanging out on the steps of a nearby building with his wife, Tina. He was one of four managers of Market Basket's produce warehouse in Andover. Leathes scoffed at the new CEO's threat to hire replacement workers.
"I'm not working, this is as good a place as any to be, until we get back to work,” he said. "Just another scare tactic. They've threatened to fire us three times already and they can't fire all of us. The amount of work that we do compared to what they're doing now is staggering. We're very good at what we do."
As Market Basket increases the pressure on employees like Leathes, their faith in Arthur T Demoulas seems to become more fervent.
“Oh, it's going to go our way. I'm not looking for another job. I'm here till it's done,” he said. "Just knowing Arthur T and the job he's always done, and he's always taken care of us. And I'm sure it will come out right again."
That's somewhat easy for Leathes to say, because he isn't the one who handles his family's finances. Tina Leathes has learned to adjust their budget on a day to day basis and cut out the extras. It's been an adjustment for their teenage daughter.
"She thinks we cut off her arm and legs because we've cut so, yeah, she's definitely noticed, yeah."
But they're not worried about the job fairs Market Basket is holding next week for prospective new employees.
"We're not afraid. They haven't got that picture yet obviously."
"The fairs are going to be a joke. I don't think there'll be anybody that wants to walk into this mess. Why would you want to come work for a company in this much turmoil now?"
“I'm going to apply on the third day. I'm going to apply for the CEO position. I'm going to go right to the top. Right to the top because I mean, looking at the job they're doing, I think I could do a better job."
They can laugh about it. Some others are a bit more solemn. Mark Smith has never worked anywhere but the Market Basket in Londonderry, New Hampshire.
"I've done it since I was 15 years old. 26 years," Smith said.
He doesn't know what he'd do if he quit or was fired.
"No idea, haven't thought that far," he said. "I don't want to think that far. I firmly believe Artie T will be back."
Like many members of the Market Basket protest village, Smith said he'll cross that bridge when he's forced to.