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Massachusetts governor: Market Basket store dispute 'out of hand'

Published August 09. 2014 4:00AM

Boston (AP) - Gov. Deval Patrick urged Market Basket's board of directors Friday to quickly resolve the question of leadership at the troubled supermarket chain.

In a letter to the board, Patrick wrote that he's not choosing sides, but "by any measure, the disruption that followed your recent change in CEO has gotten out of hand."

CEO Arthur T. Demoulas was fired in June by a board controlled by his cousin and rival, Arthur S. Demoulas. Since then, thousands of Market Basket workers and customers have been rallying in an effort to pressure management to reinstate Arthur T. Demoulas or accept his offer to buy the New England chain.

Over the past two weeks, hundreds of warehouse workers and drivers have refused to make deliveries to the family-owned chain's 71 stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.

"I do not express a view about who the CEO of Market Basket should be," Patrick wrote.

"However, I also believe that your failure to resolve this matter is not only hurting the company's brand and business, but also many innocent and relatively powerless workers whose livelihoods depend on you."

he added.

Patrick offered any help he or members of his senior staff can supply to find a solution to the dispute roiling the company.

"I am appealing to you to consider as well the broader implications and impact of your decision and resolve it soon, so that economic peace is restored and the worker's future is secure," Patrick wrote.

On Thursday, Market Basket's new CEOs denied the company was laying off workers, saying store directors have been told to adjust workers' hours to meet current demand, and that the company hopes to get back to normal business soon.

Following reports that part-time employees would see their hours drastically reduced or cut starting this weekend at the troubled grocery, company co-CEO Felicia Thornton said in a statement that store directors "are to let their associates know that they are not laid off."

She added, however, that store directors "as part of their normal responsibilities are able to and often do reduce hours but they need to make clear when doing so that the individuals are still employees."

Attorneys general in Massachusetts and New Hampshire said they have been receiving a surge in calls from worried Market Basket workers.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said Thursday that she has opened a hot line for Market Basket employees after her office received more than 100 calls in 24 hours. She said she expected more in the coming days.

She said the hot line will help answer questions from workers and make sure their rights are being protected.

New Hampshire Attorney General Joseph Foster said his office has also fielded calls from workers saying they've been laid off and asking about unemployment benefits. He said workers with questions about such benefits should contact New Hampshire Employment Security.

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