Somebody must have done something really right at Market Basket.
Thousands of the supermarket chain’s employees have organized rallies at their local stores and at the company’s headquarters during the last week. Were these employees rallying for higher wages, better benefits, and predictable schedules — the needs so many retail employees face? No, they were demonstrating to help their ousted CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas, get his job back (he was fired in June after coup led by his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas).
At a time when we see so much division between CEOs who represent the 1% and their workers who representing the 99%, this is amazing. Other CEOs should take heed. Such support is priceless.
Market Basket is a profitable family-owned regional chain of 71 supermarkets in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine, with around 25,000 employees. According to Forbes, it’s the 127th-largest private company in the United States, with $4.6 billion in revenue. It has a loyal customer base who value the chain’s low prices and good service — as evidenced by the thousands of customers who have signed petitions backing the employees. The combination of low prices and good service is delivered by a loyal, committed, and capable workforce. If you visit a Market Basket store, take a look at the employee name badges — which include length of employment — and you will likely be impressed by how long people have been working there.
Market Basket employees don’t seem to stick around just for the wages and good benefits, however. The rallies for Demoulas suggest that they truly believe in his leadership and the direction he set for the company.
Yet, as I visited Market Basket stores and talked to employees during the last two days, I saw that they are not just fighting for their ousted CEO and his leadership and guidance. They are fighting for their values, their culture. They are fighting to remain an organization that takes care of its customers and its employees, a place where they can be proud to work.
Several employees told me they worry that Market Basket will become like any other supermarket. They worry that to make a quick buck, the company will increase its prices or reduce its service or reduce employee benefits or profit-sharing — maybe all of these.
These employees recognize that a “good jobs strategy” that allows companies to deliver great returns to investors by taking care of employees and offering low prices and great service to customers is a rare strategy to see in their industry. They recognize that it is a strategy worth a fight. They are right.
This post first appeared on Harvard Business Review Blog Network.