ANDOVER — It was a scene fit for a celebrity, not a regional grocery magnate.
What would drive more than 1,000 people, many of them carrying signs and a few more brandishing bullhorns, to stand for hours in sweltering heat outside the Wyndham Hotel?
The answer was obvious Thursday morning, if you were there to read the homemade posters and T-shirts and hear the raucous chants. Arthur T. Demoulas’ job as CEO of Market Basket was in jeopardy — and this crowd had their boss’s back.
In an era where retail business owners ensure profitability by paying employees low wages and keeping them part-time to control health insurance costs, Market Basket employees say they can count on a solid paycheck, regular bonuses, generous healthcare, and even a profit-sharing plan. As a result, they’ve grown fiercely loyal to the man they call “Artie T.”
Demoulas’ tremendous rank-and-file support was never more obvious than at 9:25 a.m., when he arrived at the Wyndham in the passenger seat of a slow-rolling Ford sedan. The crowd erupted and at one point nearly swarmed the vehicle.
“It was like a boy band showing up,” said Bob Forrant, a history professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. “You usually don’t see that many people rallying in the street saying, ‘I love my boss.’ That type of passion can’t be faked.”
Thirteen hours later, Demoulas still had his job. After deliberating all day, the Market Basket board of directors made no motion to remove him as CEO, a change that was sought by his cousin and family-business rival, Arthur S. Demoulas.
In addition to Market Basket’s employee-friendly policies, Forrant said the outpouring of support for Arthur T. Demoulas is a reflection on the local economy. If the labor market was better — and people felt more secure about their financial standing — there’s a chance the campaign to “Save Artie T” would have been less robust, Forrant said.