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The Market Basket supermarket chain's new co-CEOs on Tuesday urged protesting employees to go back to work, saying they are committed to continuing the company's "tradition of excellence and dedication."
Felicia Thornton and Jim Gooch also said they saw no alternative but to take the "difficult step" of firing eight senior employees, including some of the protest's leaders, saying those employees "took significant actions that harmed the company and therefore compromised Market Basket's ability to be there for our customers." It was their first comment since the firings on Sunday.
Workers demanding the return of ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas announced they will hold a "final" rally on Friday in Tewksbury, the same day the company's board of directors plans to meet.
"We fervently hope that Friday, when the Board meets at 4pm in the Prudential Center in Boston, our revolution ends with the proper resolution," read a statement on the group's Facebook page. "They can put an end to all of this with a simple vote to do what is right: return Arthur T. Demoulas to his role of President and CEO."
With workers stopping some deliveries in protest and asking customers to shop elsewhere, business has slowed and several stores have been left with empty shelves. The company has 71 stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.
Demoulas said Monday the workers shouldn't have been fired and should be reinstated. He said Market Basket's success was "not about me" but a result of a good business model and the "impassioned associates" who carried it out.
He was fired in June by a board controlled by his rival cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, in a long-running feud over leadership of the family business.
The workers say they fear the company means to eliminate the low prices and good employee benefits it has been known for. Thornton and Gooch have said they don't plan changes in its direction.
The new CEOs said they share many of Arthur T. Demoulas' sentiments about their employees and customers.
"We are committed to earning the trust and acceptance of our associates and Market Basket's customers and hope that our associates will judge us not on our promises but on our actions as we move forward," the CEOs said.
With reporting by The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom.