Special edition*: Grass roots

If you live anywhere in New England, you can’t help hearing about the Market Basket soap opera. In fact, you can’t help hearing about it no matter where you live. I’ve seen articles in Time and the Wall Street Journal, as well as newspapers as far away as New Zealand covering this tawdry debacle.

I’ll declare my sentiments up front. I’m a huge fan of the old MB. I shop there and have for the past thirty or so years. The DeMoulas family is clearly dysfunctional, but the ASD side of it (if you’ve been studying the cast of characters in your program) is delusional, stupid, and possibly even evil. (The distinction is subtle, one I plan to discuss in a future post.) The employees, the customers, and even local pols have made it clear by the proverbial overwhelming majority, that the current board of directors of the company needs to put the old CEO, ATD, back into power.

So what’s this all about? Money? Clearly not. MB is losing ten million dollars a day. That’s $10,000,000 US. Every day. Now I’ve lost money in my day. Quarters slip behind the couch cushions, dollars stick together, and that kind of thing. But $10,000,000? As forgetful as I am, I can’t even imagine that. (“Honey, have you seen my ten million bucks? I had it in my jacket pocket this morning.” This concept deserves its own post.)

newsiesThe more I hear about this grass roots movement of a bunch of employees, the more I think of what I consider the single most underrated movie of all time, “Newsies”. The critics trashed the movie mercilessly when it was released 22 years ago, but I’ve never met a viewer who didn’t like it. I’m among them. To remind myself of how terrific the movie is, and to capture the parallels with the MB fiasco, I watched it again tonight.

It’s still great.

The songs will bounce around my head for at least a week, so catchy are they. The live musical version of the movie went on to win 2012 Tony Awards® for Best Score and Best Choreography. So I guess it’s not just me. This is a case where the self-proclaimed “experts” are simply wrong.

The connection to MB is best summarized in the following (slightly abridged) exchange between two of the striking newsies (kids who sell papers on the street) and Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the NY World.

PULITZER: Anyone who doesn’t act in their own self interest is a fool.

DAVID: Then what does that make you?


DAVID: You talk about self interest, but since the strike, your circulation’s been down 70%. Every day you’re losing thousands of dollars just to beat us out of one lousy tenth of a cent. Why?

JACK: You see, it ain’t about the money, Dave. If Joe gives in to nobodies like us, it means we got the power. And he can’t do that, no matter what it costs. Am I right, Joe?

If the current Board of Directors (who, to replace ATD, appointed co-CEO’s – now there’s a formula for success – one of whom was named one of the five worst CEO’s in 2012) cared about money, they’d give in to the employee’s demands yesterday. But that’s not what the fight is about. It’s about bitterness, power, revenge, hatred, and all sorts of other petty nonsense. Are these really adults?

Give me back my Market Basket!

*This is five days before my next scheduled post, but I couldn’t resist. The whole situation could change any minute.