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With Their Hours Cut, Part-Time Market Basket Workers Pledge To Keep Fighting

NHPR / Michael Brindley

An estimated 8,000 part-time Market Basket employees in New Hampshire may be without a paycheck next week.

The embattled supermarket chain announced Thursday that with sales plummeting from customer boycotts, part-time employees would no longer be scheduled for hours starting Sunday.

Part-time cashier Susan Mawson was standing outside the Londonderry Market Basket, her sign pledging allegiance to Arthur T. Demoulas torn and tattered from weeks of protesting.

"Our managers gave us a piece of paper today – attention all part-time employees, we have been instructed by our new CEOs that we have to schedule according to store volume. The office is not sending deliveries and customers are boycotting. This unfortunately affects your hours.”

The note told employees they haven’t actually lost their jobs, but there will be no hours – and thus no pay – until the conflict is resolved.

Mawson says workers were told how to file for unemployment, which she plans to do.

“I have two children and I have to watch out for them. That’s my first priority.”

One of the state’s largest Market Baskets, the Londonderry store employs nearly 600 people, 470 of whom are part-time.

Apart from a small group of middle managers fired early on, these part-timers are the super market’s first employees to lose a paycheck.

This follows weeks of protests, a customer boycott that managers say have cut store sales by 90 percent.

Mawson says she knew it was only a matter of time until the company took action.

“I was hoping that they would have solved their problems but, if they didn’t, I knew eventually, it was going to come.”

The scene was similar at the nearly 30 Markets Baskets across New Hampshire Thursday.

Londonderry part-time employee Melissa Gaw says employees were told the news during a meeting that morning.

“The managers, they haven’t taken this very lightly, either. A lot of them were brought to tears just by having to read that to us. It’s been very difficult.”

The state estimates roughly 8,000 part-time workers will be affected.

Governor Maggie Hassan says she’s been advised many should qualify for unemployment.

"And while that’s of comfort to the workers in the short-term, nothing is a substitute for a good solid job.”

Hassan says there will be an impact of having that many unemployed workers seeking assistance at the same time.

"Obviously if there’s a lot of claims on our unemployment fund, that does affect our unemployment trust fund going forward. So there’s certainly a potential impact on the state’s trust fund.”

The attorneys general New Hampshire and Massachusetts warned Market Basket officials to be mindful of labor laws if they were to take action.

Back outside the Londonderry store, part-time workers like Ashley Nadeau say they’re not sure what they’re going to do.

“It’s just really upsetting because we all have bills to pay, we all have families and now it’s going to be hard trying to find something for the time being because this is my life. I’ve worked here since I was 14.”

If you believe, these protests aren’t going to end anytime soon.

Market Basket’s Board of Directors meanwhile says it is considering several offers to buy the company, including one from Arthur T. Demoulas.

Reports say that the parent company of Hannaford, which has been a spike in business since the dispute began, is also among the potential buyers.

Michael serves as NHPR's Program Director. Michael came to NHPR in 2012, working as the station's newscast producer/reporter. In 2015, he took on the role of Morning Edition producer. Michael worked for eight years at The Telegraph of Nashua, covering education and working as the metro editor.

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