BY TANYA WILLIAMS // OCT. 07, 2014 //

I have been an employee of the Market Basket location in Middleton, Mass., for the last six years. As a college student, I typically pick up shifts when I return home during the winter and summer breaks. I’m always grateful to have such a flexible and accommodating opportunity to earn some money.

But my earning power hit a pretty big snag this summer.

As most people in this area already know, the board of directors of Demoulas Super Markets, the parent company of Market Basket, fired longtime President and CEO Arthur T. Demoulas. There has long been news of tensions between Arthur T. and his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, who chairs the board, and things finally came to a head.

Tanya Williams
Tanya Williams

Many employees were upset about the dismissal, and they wanted to make it known that they would only work for Artie T.

I went to work on a Wednesday afternoon in late June, a few weeks after Arthur T. was let go. Not much had changed in the stores, but rumors were circling that walkouts, strikes, and eventually a shut down of the company would begin soon. It seemed unlikely to many customers and employees that this would happen because it seemed so extreme. How could employees take such action, and how would that get Artie T. back in the company?

By Friday, those rumors turned into reality. There was a walkout at my warehouse and food deliveries came to a standstill.

I decided to drive to work like any other day. I was shocked by what I saw. It had been only five days since the last food delivery, but the shelves were as empty as the parking lot. Normally, I would walk into work and be greeted by familiar customers and co-workers. But that normalcy no longer existed.

One register was open and the cashier was aimlessly washing her conveyor belt while managers and supervisors, no longer dressed in company clothes, walked around somberly. Typical work conversations were silenced and even the store music was shut off. There were maybe four frustrated customers milling about Store No. 45, which was now essentially a ghost town.

I was shocked and truly sadden to see what was happening to Market Basket. When I found my supervisor, I inquired about what was expected of me during my eight-hour shift. I was handed a pair of gloves and a washcloth and was sent down the aisles to begin cleaning the shelves. After two hours I was told to come back the following day, to hold protest signs in the parking lot.

The following week, my supervisor sent out a mass text to employees informing us to apply for unemployment benefits and seek new jobs.

As a college student that lives away from home during the school year, it was unrealistic to find a new job during the middle of summer. Instead, I applied for unemployment and babysat for a family friend while I anxiously awaited Market Basket to get back on its feet.

During the final week of summer news broke that Arthur T. and his sisters reached a deal to purchase the company from Arthur S. and others for more than $1.5 billion. Many employees and customers were ecstatic. I was also happy and relieved, but I couldn’t help feeling a little bitter. I was going back to school even more broke than I was when I left campus four months prior.

Although I didn’t earn much money, I gained some valuable insights. I realized that the more you put into a job, the more you get in return. Artie T. is a perfect example. He is a loyal, hard-working man who genuinely cares about his employees, customers, and work. Without his obvious dedication to Market Basket over the years, he may have never gotten his job and company back.

Employees fought for Artie because he always fought for them, the people who give Market Basket its identity. The least we could do was show him how much we appreciated that.

As I move forward in my own endeavors I will take with me the valuable lesson of putting my all into everything I do. Everything comes full circle, and this summer showed me why good and honest people will always come out on top in the end.

Tanya Williams is a junior Communication major, and plans to return to work at Market Basket during winter break.

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