Market Basket miracle

Last week the nation witnessed a remarkable victory for a group of workers, assisted by customers, who went without pay and risked their jobs by striking.

Certainly strikes, while rare these days, are not extraordinary. However, this job action was. Because these non-union workers walked out not for higher wages or better benefits, but to restore to leadership a boss who had treated them with respect, listened to their input, and made them happy to provide great customer service.

It should be a lesson, perhaps a warning, for other corporate leaders who focus squarely on bottom lines, paying no more than lip service to worker concerns. Workers and consumers might also consider that they have more power to force change than perhaps they realized.

In June, workers at the chain of Market Basket supermarkets scattered throughout New England were aghast to learn that a family rival, Arthur S. Demoulas, had forced their beloved CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas, out of his job.

The employees - "associates" in the chain's nomenclature - staged protests, social media helping them organize across different stores. Soon, most of the 25,000 workers had walked off their jobs and urged loyal customers to support them with a boycott. The vast majority did so.

In mid-July, the new management fired those it concluded were leading the job action, but still the strike and boycott continued. Shelves emptied as warehouse workers and drivers refused to deliver. In mid-August the company warned that it would consider anyone who failed to report to work as having quit.

Market Basket held job fairs. They were poorly attended.

Then came last week's announcement of an agreement. Arthur T. will buy a 50.5 percent controlling interest and return as CEO. Fired workers will get their jobs back.

The grocery chain still faces a big challenge recovering from the damage done by the lengthy job action. We suspect, however, that customers will return in droves, along with new customers wanting to support this show of employee integrity and strength.

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