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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Market Basket picketers have some boos, jeers for apparent job applicants

ANDOVER, Mass. – Polite rallying turned to edgy anger Wednesday as more than 100 picketers jeered drivers entering and leaving the distribution center for Demoulas Market Basket during a job fair for new workers.

A few dozen cars entered the gated facility during the job fair, which ran 1-8 p.m., although it’s not known how many were job applicants. ...

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ANDOVER, Mass. – Polite rallying turned to edgy anger Wednesday as more than 100 picketers jeered drivers entering and leaving the distribution center for Demoulas Market Basket during a job fair for new workers.

A few dozen cars entered the gated facility during the job fair, which ran 1-8 p.m., although it’s not known how many were job applicants.

Workers and supporters walked a tight circle outside the facility as more than a dozen police officers stood by.

As cars turned into the building’s driveway, picketers slowly moved to each side. Police stood between the picketers and the drivers as protesters yelled slogans like “go home” and “they’re not hiring.”

Orange-clad workers in the building’s parking lot video-recorded the picketers. A few picketers pointed cameras at arriving drivers.

The few people who walked into the gate were met with vocal opposition from some picketers.

“I got kids, I got bills. I got more people yelling at me than that right there,” said one man who didn’t give his name. He and two others walked together through yelling picketers to a car, which was parked along the road near the facility.

Monique Dufresne, who works in the company’s main office in Tewksbury, stood at the edge of the road yelling at drivers who had their turn signals on, ready to enter the parking lot.

“The jobs are not available,” she said. “We don’t need you. Maybe in the new stores in the future that would be great, but not now.

“How can you sleep at night? How do you face yourself? Putting 25,000 people out of work just to get back at your cousin?” she asked, in reference to the highly publicized dispute between cousins Arthur T. and Arthur S. Demoulas.

Market Basket employees were ordered to return to work Monday.

In the meantime, company executives hosted a three-day job fair at the Andover location. The first two days were for internal applicants and were sparsely attended, according to news reports.

Wednesday’s job fair was open to all applicants and was more lively.

Marcus and Diane Patterson were among the protesters Wednesday, who said they were there because they were “trying to save the company.” The Patersons live in Salem and work in the company’s Tewksbury office. They met at Market Basket and are expecting a child.

They said they were hoping for the best, and the best for them would be the return of the man many call “Artie T.” as CEO.

“The second that Artie T. comes back, everything will turn around in days. We’re not worried about it,” Diane said.

Arthur T. Demoulas was fired in June by the supermarket’s board of directors, controlled by his cousin and rival, Arthur S. Demoulas.

Over the last 21⁄2 weeks, hundreds of warehouse workers and drivers have refused to make deliveries to the family-owned chain’s 71 stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, leaving stock severely depleted and prompting customers to shop at other grocery stores.

Rallies and protests have been occurring daily outside stores throughout New England, leading to speculation about how the dispute will end and uncertainty for some workers.

“We also need our insurance. We can’t afford Cobra,” Diane Patterson said. “I really love working for this company, and I really want to work for this company. Something’s going to happen.”

Doug Johnston held a sign along Ballardvale Street with other picketers. He works at the company’s Lawrence warehouse and said his family has worked at the company for three generations.

“I have nothing bad to say about the Demoulas family,” he said. “It’s fed me. It’s clothed me. All I ever knew is Market Basket and Demoulas.”

Don Himsel can be reached at 594-6590 or dhimsel@nashuatelegraph.com. Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.