BIDDEFORD — It’s more than the holiday spirit that’s putting smiles on workers’ faces at Market Basket grocery stores this week.

Friday was the day that Arthur T. Demoulas – “Artie T” to the workers who essentially shut down the supermarket chain this summer to force his return as president – completed his buyout of the 50.5 percent of the company he hadn’t owned. The transaction ended one of retailing’s most public and bitter family feuds, and one of the more unusual labor actions in the retail industry.

This week the workers, who openly asked customers to boycott their stores until Artie T was reinstated, got bonus checks totaling $49 million. The average was about $2,000 for each of 25,000 workers, with the amounts varying based on longevity on the job, hours worked and position.

Market Basket workers have received comparable bonuses for years, and it was one reason they started the effort to get Demoulas back as president.

“It’s official now – we won,” said Micum McIntire, the manager of the Biddeford store, Maine’s only Market Basket, which had been open for only a year when Demoulas was ousted by the company board this summer.

The Biddeford store’s workers joined the majority of the chain’s employees, urging customers to stay away until Demoulas was brought back to run the company, which has 73 stores in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.


McIntire had a bottle of champagne chilling on ice for the end of the workday Friday. He said the closing on the sale sealed the victory that the workers won in late August, when the side of the family led by Arthur S. Demoulas agreed to sell its majority stake to Arthur T. Demoulas, his cousin.

No details of the deal were disclosed, aside from an acknowledgment that financing for the deal came from New England-based banks at historically low interest rates. Citing sources familiar with the negotiations in August, some media reported the buyout price at $1.5 billion.

McIntire, who has been with the company for 35 years, said the stores bounced back from the summer tumult quickly. Workers urged customers to return, he said, and within two weeks sales were back up to the level they were at before workers at the Massachusetts warehouse and drivers walked off the job and the boycott effort began.

McIntire gleefully recalls the arrival of the first truck filled with produce after Demoulas was restored as president and the walkout ended. Produce was the section of the store hit hardest, with fresh fruit and vegetables largely unavailable because of the job actions by warehouse workers and drivers.

“It was all hands on deck” when the truck arrived, McIntire said.

Jubilant employees had the section restocked in 40 minutes, he said. “The entire company was back in two weeks.”


The employees’ action won the support of customers.

Darcy Flaherty, who shopped at the Biddeford Market Basket on Friday, said her first stop at the store was in the summer. She said she was struck by the empty shelves, then remembered what was going on.

Flaherty said she came back after the job actions ended and has been a regular since.

Market Basket “has good prices and good people,” she said. “I’m definitely happy for the people who work here.”

McIntire said he never doubted that customers were on the side of the workers. He said that when he and his wife went out to dinner to celebrate the return of Demoulas, people he knew in the restaurant came up to offer their congratulations. When the couple left, he said, other diners applauded.

McIntire said workers are especially grateful that the bonuses arrived despite the toll of the summer boycott. He said there was uncertainty about whether the bonus plan would continue after Demoulas was ousted.


Market Basket workers are already considered among the best compensated in the industry, with high pay and benefits that include a company-funded profit-sharing plan that puts aside as much as 15 percent of annual employee salaries for retirement. One of the actions that led to Demoulas’ firing was his insistence on continuing to fund the plan during the recession.

“Now I don’t have to worry about my future,” said Robert Mann, who was helping to stock the refrigerated section of the Biddeford store Friday afternoon.

Mann, who has been with the company since he was a teenager, said the completion of the sale eases his mind, and the bonus money allows him to pay bills and buy Christmas presents.

Another worker, Robert Barclay, said he thinks the sale gives workers peace of mind.

Had it not gone through, he said, “it would have been the death of this company.”

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