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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Workers encouraged by Market Basket customers support, hopeful for resolution

HUDSON – Cheryl Lutsko found a use for a Market Basket shopping cart outside of the mostly vacant store Monday. It became a convenient playpen for her young grandson, Kolby Goodwin.

Lutsko joined others on the now familiar line of employees outside the grocery store who continued their campaign to reinstate their beloved leader Artie T. Demoulas to the company. ...

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HUDSON – Cheryl Lutsko found a use for a Market Basket shopping cart outside of the mostly vacant store Monday. It became a convenient playpen for her young grandson, Kolby Goodwin.

Lutsko joined others on the now familiar line of employees outside the grocery store who continued their campaign to reinstate their beloved leader Artie T. Demoulas to the company.

“I have a sore throat from being out here yelling,” she said as Kolby played with a plastic dump truck nearby. Lutsko was protesting as both a customer and relative of two Market Basket employees – her husband and son.

Lutsko said she stocked up on groceries because she knew something was brewing at the company, and admitted she’s picked up milk at
Hannaford’s to get by.

“I’m 100 percent behind the employees,” she said. “We need the low prices, we need Artie T. back is the bottom line.”

The store’s parking lot, often full of cars, was virtually empty Monday morning. Inside, shelves for some items remained close to stocked. Cases for some others were completely empty.

“I was on vacation last week,” said Jim Close, merchandising manager for the store who waved a sign at the edge of Lowell Road wearing a white shirt and tie. He mixed with other employees – both managers and staff, encouraging drivers to honk. Some did, some gave a thumbs up. One motorist yelled out his open car window saying the picketers should be ashamed and should get back to work.

“It hadn’t felt like vacation all week,” he said. “Me and my daughter headed out to the Tilton store. We were in Tilton for about an hour. Then we headed to both Concord stores, then we headed back north again,” he said. “Friday we came back down for the rally.”

Tony Sinkewjz, a 46 year employee for Market Basket, waved to traffic. He said his Market Basket career began when he started bagging groceries after school as a youngster. He eventually took an assistant manager and head cashier jobs during stints in the chain’s Lawrence, Methuen, Haverhill, Woburn, Salem, Plaistow and Hudson stores. Now he works administering the incoming stock.

“I think it’s very sustainable,” he said about the job action throughout Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire. “Myself, I have a lot of faith in he people I’m working for. I have a lot of faith in the customers pulling for us,” he said.

The general public’s donations of sandwiches, donuts and pizzas and drinks for the protesters has impressed him.

“Last Saturday when they came out and stood out here with us ... it says everything about our customer base and the loyalty that we’ve generated,” he said.

“Corporate has got deep pockets but hopefully they’ve got some business sense, too,” said Sinkewjz. “This board of directors, this isn’t the only board of directors that a lot of these people are on. This is going to go down with them as far as their reputations go.”

“I’ve never seen these stores so lacking in people on a weekend. Never in my life. On a bad snowstorm we’ve got more people shopping inside than we had this past weekend.”

Sinkewjz and Close have been contributing to the public presence on their own time. Sinkewjz said he had been on the company work schedule but hadn’t punched in for all of last week. About his paycheck, he said, “I have no idea of what I’ll get,” he said. “Right now I don’t know. I have faith things will work out well.”

If he got fired, Sinkewjz said, “I’d be out here. I just wouldn’t have to go inside. I’d just come right out here that’s all, until it was over.”

Don Himsel can be reached at 594-6590 or DHimsel@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Don on Twitter @Telegraph_DonH.