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After The Market Basket Deal, Congratulations And Thanks

Thomas Kochan: "First and foremost an enormous thank you goes to the courageous and loyal employees and their families who stood up, together, for each other, for the culture Arthur T. nourished over the years and for fairness in business and employment practices." Pictured: Market Basket meat manager Bob Dietz, of Methuen, Mass., front right, hugs cashier Mary Olson, of Chelsea, Mass., after watching a televised speech by restored Market Basket CEO Arthur T. Demoulas at a store location, Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, in Chelsea. (Steven Senne/AP)closemore
Thomas Kochan: "First and foremost an enormous thank you goes to the courageous and loyal employees and their families who stood up, together, for each other, for the culture Arthur T. nourished over the years and for fairness in business and employment practices." Pictured: Market Basket meat manager Bob Dietz, of Methuen, Mass., front right, hugs cashier Mary Olson, of Chelsea, Mass., after watching a televised speech by restored Market Basket CEO Arthur T. Demoulas at a store location, Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, in Chelsea. (Steven Senne/AP)

Like everyone else, I am relieved that Market Basket share owners reached a deal allowing Arthur T. Demoulas to lead employees back to work and customers back to their stores. This is a win for all the parties with a direct stake in this company, and for those around the country who watched this saga unfold. Arthur T. got it exactly right in his moving speech to employees this morning when he said this is a win for the virtues of loyalty and fairness that carried employees and customers through this ordeal.

So as we say thank you, let’s also celebrate what we all gained from this experience.

Longstanding family feuds are hard to overcome but eventually enough rationality prevailed to produce a sensible deal.

First and foremost an enormous thank you goes to the courageous and loyal employees and their families who stood up, together, for each other, for the culture Arthur T. nourished over the years and for fairness in business and employment practices. Historians may very well record you as forerunners of others who gain confidence from your actions and begin to stand up for what they believe is right or wrong in their workplaces. We recognize the risks you took by putting your jobs on the line and the tensions you undoubtedly experienced as the dispute dragged on. Without your steadfast determination to stay true to your single demand — put Artie T. and all he represents back in charge — this case would have ended with the business in free fall, your jobs in shambles and your customers abandoned.

You spoke for millions of American workers by showing you have as much of an interest in how a business is managed as do owners and shareholders and you know and appreciate good leadership when you see it. Bravo.

A second big thank you goes to the thousands of loyal customers who endured the financial strains of having to find alternative retail outlets and in doing so recognized how much Market Basket’s low-price strategies means to your budget. Without your support, this would have morphed into a more traditional worker-management dispute. Instead, the countless testimonials you gave to the media, your presence at the employee rallies and indeed your own rally demonstrated that customer loyalty results from good quality service, value for your dollars and a human touch in your shopping experience.

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Thanks are in order to the media that covered this dispute. I have never seen a labor dispute covered as thoughtfully, comprehensively and persistently as this case. The media took the time to learn about what was at stake rather than just look for the sensational story or quote. Many academic, labor and business experts were given opportunities to explain the importance of this dispute and its implications for the future of management, employee relations, business education and public policy.

We should also thank the chorus of leaders who spoke out and lent their voices to calls for resolution. Govs. Deval Patrick and Maggie Hassan deserve credit for not only stating publicly that “this is getting out of hand” but then for working hard privately, behind the scenes, to impress on the negotiators that there were significant public interests at stake that called for a resolution. A group of respected clergy also spoke out and lent their moral authority to the cause for a just agreement. In doing so they reminded everyone of the social justice doctrines embedded in their various religious traditions. Their actions demonstrated that business leaders have a responsibility to work for the common good, not just for their private interests. Believers and non-believers across America applaud this message.

And yes, thanks are in order to the members of the Demoulas family who came around to recognize there was only one viable solution to this dispute, namely to allow Arthur T. to take charge and lead employees and customers back. Longstanding family feuds are hard to overcome but eventually enough rationality prevailed to produce a sensible deal. Their biggest gain: the Demoulas' good family name will live on.

More than ever [Arthur T.'s] steady leadership will need to be visible to all. American business leaders: watch, learn and act accordingly and you too will gain goodwill that is hard to measure but easy to see.

Clearly, Arthur T. has emerged as a winner by gaining control of the company once again. But his biggest and most valuable win is the tremendous goodwill he and his company gained from the public attention given to his leadership style and the business strategy his name now stands for. With this comes a challenge and responsibility to carry it on in what will undoubtedly be some difficult days ahead as he rebuilds relationships with vendors, ramps up to meet what will likely be a surge in customer traffic and re-engages with a workforce that has come through a trying and emotional experience. More than ever his steady leadership will need to be visible to all. American business leaders: watch, learn and act accordingly and you too will gain goodwill that is hard to measure but easy to see.

So thanks to all of you. You each made a difference, not just in helping to resolve this dispute, but also in helping cement the lessons that I hope workers, managers, owners and business analysts will take away from this case and use to inform their strategies and actions going forward.


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Thomas A. Kochan Cognoscenti contributor
Thomas Kochan is the George Maverick Bunker Professor of Management and co-director of the Institute for Work & Employment Research at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

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