Economist: Market Basket Employees Inspire Nation

Market Basket’s board of directors met in emergency session last night, but Economist Richard D. Wolff says members need to act faster to avoid damaging the 71-store supermarket chain.

Wolff, professor of economics emeritus, UMass, Amherst, told WHAV’s Open Mike Show listeners Monday the successful employee pickets and customer boycotts serves as inspiration for other workers from coast to coast.

“It really has enormous ramifications all over the United States,” he said.

Ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas has submitted an offer to buy out his rivals. Wolff said if he were advising the popular leader, he’d recommend giving employees a place at the table in any future buyout.

“The idea would be to give all of the workers there some degree of ownership, some degree of membership on the board of directors and so forth. And, in exchange, I think workers, if they got that kind of position, would be willing to make all kinds of contributions to a new enterprise in which they were part of the ownership and part of the directing of the enterprise.”

In fact, Wolff added, potential lenders will look favorably on a portion of employee ownership.

While Market Basket workers have shunned formal union membership, Wolff said they have effectively formed one, and for the same reasons unions have always been created.

“But the irony is—and I think that is what’s happening here—is that whatever the mistakes unions made, the fact of the matter is that the idea of a union is as relevant today as it was in the past,” he said.

Wolff is currently a visiting professor in the graduate program in International Affairs of the New School University, New York City. He also teaches classes regularly at the Brecht Forum in Manhattan.