I spent just over an hour at the Market Basket rally in Tewksbury, yesterday. I walked away scratching my head.
If you’ve seen some of the pictures, you’ll know that a very large crowd had congregated around a makeshift stage. The crowd was dense, up front, and scattered out along the fringes. Most certainly, the amount of support coming from customers is gathering steam. If the MB workers are forced back into the stores, the current Board of Directors will unlikely find a return to ‘normal.’ This is the most important take away from this post.
That said, in terms of controlling the narrative, the over-arching message that framed the content of the various speakers to take the stage; this was the most SCHIZOPHRENIC rally I have ever witnessed. (By ‘schizophrenic’ I mean ‘split personality.’ That usage may be a bit dated.)
When the speaking program began, a ‘Master of Ceremonies’ kicked things off. The MC identified himself. I heard him refer to himself as “Mr. P.” Others, later, told me that person is Steve Paulenka; who is a MB executive that is loyal to ATD. It’s not especially important who the MC was to get the gist of this post. The operative words are ‘obnoxious’ and ‘schizophrenic.’
Rally’s are intended to unify a group. The point is to create a common thought, a message, that those gathered can carry away with them. Yesterday, what seemed to be the message being cultivated was “I’m the customer. You can’t fire me. I quit!” The point of such a theme is to pivot from the message that of employee loyalty to ATD to customer loyalty to both ATD and MB employees. This makes perfect sense. If customers boycott the stores, then there is very few options available to the current BOD.
Unfortunately, the personality of the rally’s MC trampled all over the energy being cultivated. Let me explain.
There were several politicians brought up, one after another. The MC lauded the very first politician to speak, but then berated the waiting line of others. I was stunned at how derogatory the MC’s remarks were towards the gaggle of politicians. More, it was sad to see these politicians endure the toxic cloud of rhetoric shrouding them. Several state senators were subjected to contempt, but still found their way to the microphone. Were they truly motivated to show support? Or, were they fishing for votes?
The crux of the beef stemmed from the MC’s personal politics. He deemed it pertinent to inform us that politically, he was “to the right of Attila the Hun.” This disposition seemed to inflame the MC’s disdain for the politicians that came forward.
Why does this matter?
If this whole MB trouble goes to shit, where will the workers turn? Is “Mr.P” going to have a bake sale? Maybe, a charity ham and bean supper? The very same politicians that were treated so shabbily will be the ones that are overwhelmed with constituent service demands. So far, issues around balancing work hours reductions and picking up unemployment insurance benefits are NOW coming to the fore. Problems with healthcare and tax penalties are popping up. In many ways, the holes that open up for an employee when the corporation fails, are filled by state government. For whatever reason, “Mr.P” opted NOT to keep that on the tip of his tongue. Instead, he opted to lambaste those that provide and maintain the safety net many of MB lower wage workers will rely on.
And, it should be noted, while some of the speakers were citing the various elements of our Bill of Rights; many of the labor laws that they will be cuddling up to, during this brouhaha, were put in place by progressive minded politicians and the people that elected them. Our great Commonwealth is exceptionally ‘labor friendly.’ That atmosphere provides shelter to the MB workers.
I don’t know what color “Mr.P’s” parachute is. But, his poor judgment and obnoxious disposition was oblivious to the parachute the vast of MB’s workers would be using.