An open letter to the workers of Market Basket

To all the workers of Market Basket:

It is not nearly enough to say that I support you, that I stand with you, that I respect every one of you, and that I admire your resolve and your accomplishments with all my heart.

Having the courage to risk everything to defend what you have and what you believe in puts you head and shoulders above the average. Even among those few who have the boldness to take a stand like you’ve taken, fewer still manage to accomplish very much. But you’ve done it. Instead of shutting up and accepting that things are going to get worse, you stopped product from being loaded onto trucks, prevented deliveries from being made, and refused to offload the deliveries that arrived. In the process, you taught a rich and powerful board of directors that Market Basket workers aren’t to be messed with.

You managed to do all that and still convince a skeptical public that your fight is the right fight, perhaps even that your fight is their fight. You didn’t just ask the people of New England to sign a petition or like a Facebook page, you asked them to spend extra money to support you by shopping at more expensive grocery stores. Despite the fact that nobody even has extra money these days, the people said yes. Politicians have pledged their support, some going so far as to stand and hold signs with you. Churches, labor organizations, and community groups have freely offered assistance, and your story has made its way around the globe.

You shut the whole machine down. You did it, and you did it all on your own. Those empty shelves, those empty aisles, those empty parking lots, those are the symbols of what people can do if they join up with one another and believe.

As a former coworker of yours, I hope you are as proud of yourselves as I am proud of you. As an ordinary guy working at a job for a wage, I hope you realize you’re now the gold standard, the example for mobilizing workers to follow. We’ve all got a lot to learn from your resolve, your sense of right and wrong, and your wildly amazing success – and I hope we do learn.

I also hope that all this helps you to recognize forever the dignity you are owed as a person and as a worker and to realize forever how much power you really have. Just look what you’ve done! You’ve proven, to yourselves and to the world, that if you’re not willing to take it anymore, you don’t have to. You’ve shown everyone that a company’s value lies in the hands of its workers, that without the sweat and consent of its workers, business grinds to a halt. That’s power!

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The truth is, you’ve always had this power. It’s yours. It belongs to you. And now that you’ve exercised it, you’ll always have it – unless you give it up. Don’t give it up. Don’t give it away. I believe, as you do, that Arthur T. Demoulas is a good man, that he’s an honorable man. Time after time, he’s taken care of you, he’s prioritized your needs over profits and the bottom line. While most retail work is a dead end street, he fostered a culture at Market Basket that turns your retail job into a potentially life-long career, a career that supports a family and a middle class life. It’s with very, very good reason that you’ve rewarded him with your loyalty. At the end of the day, however, he can’t do it forever. Even if you win this fight – and I believe you most certainly will – the day will come when he retires or (heaven forbid) is no longer with us.

You’re not always going to have Artie T. But what you’ve proven to yourselves and to the world is that you will always have each other.

Together, you’ve been able to accomplish what the big unions are completely unable to do. I make no secret of the fact that I’m a huge believer in unions, but I respect your nonunion approach even if I disagree with the philosophy behind it. If you can do all of this independently, why should you pay dues out of your check to a bureaucratic organization that’s more likely to cut a compromise deal with F&G than take a stand like you’ve done? I don’t have an answer for that. So if you don’t want to join some old-school union, don’t.

But there’s a challenge that goes along with that decision. I’ve often seen a quote from one of the earlier rallies in Tewksbury: “You don’t need a union if you’ve got a family.” Maybe you’re right – but now you’ve got to prove it. If you’ve discovered a way for workers to act collectively and fight for their best interests that is a better model than the old one, make sure you show that to the world. Reinstating a beloved CEO isn’t going to be enough if you don’t maintain what you’ve built on your own these last few weeks. You claim to take care of your own, and I’ve seen you do it with my own eyes, long before this uprising. Now that you know what you’re capable of, you’ve got to keep doing it. You’ve got to start taking care of one another on a bigger scale, on a more organized level, and from a more powerful position.

No matter how loyal you are to Artie T., and no matter how right he’s done by you in the past and will do in the future, it’s not his job to take care of you. It’s your job to take care of one another. Accept that responsibility and put it into action from this day forward, never giving up on it, then you’ll really prove once and for all what you’re made of and what you can do.

You’ve already shown the whole world the truth. A business is not just its shareholders, but its stakeholders as well. That means its customers, its vendors, its community, and, most of all, you – its workers. You’ve already taught the world’s boards of directors a valuable lesson, that the interests of stakeholders like workers are a responsibility that trumps the bottom line. Shareholders can’t make those shelves bare and they can’t empty the aisles. Only you can do that, and only you have.

That’s huge. Be proud. Stand tall. You’ve done a service not merely for yourselves and for your company, but for all of us. For that, you have my humblest thanks.

Now, in the days, weeks, months, and years to come, no matter what happens, keep this going. The power is yours. Don’t give it away. Keep it, use it. Use it for one another, to make a better life for yourselves, a better company for all involved, and maybe even a better world for everyone.

With much love, appreciation, and solidarity,

Jay Monaco
Wizard of Monadnock

2 thoughts on “An open letter to the workers of Market Basket

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