The cheering has subsided and now it’s time for Market Basket to begin to heal. It’s going to be a long haul. Much has been said about how the “little guy” was able to bring a corporate giant to its knees, and how this was proof that when managers take care of their employees, employees will remain loyal to them. Well, it was proven true here. Arthur T. DeMoulas was loved by his people because he cared. He believed in people over profits and chose to share his wealth. People loved him. But what was so extraordinary about this event was that management and employees, along with customers and vendors, banded together to exert their will over the ownership. Never have we seen anything like this. Yet, lost in the celebration and high fives is the realization that many were hurt by this family squabble. We know DeMoulas lost millions of dollars in lost sales over this 6-week boycott, but little is heard about those hourly employees who weren’t working and therefore went without pay. And what about those vendors whose products were not needed? That business is lost forever. And what about the local businesses abutting each of the 71 Market Basket stores that depend on the Market Basket traffic to fill their shops and lunch counters. Think about their lost sales, wages and tips. And now the big question: with all that debt and the costs Arthur T. incurred to buy the business, will he be able to continue his generosity to his loyal workers? Yes, the Market Basket boycott was a big win for the workers, but it came with an equally big cost. Let’s hope it was worth it.
And speaking of wages, the minimum wage debate continues without any clear resolution in sight. In one of my earlier columns, I advocated for an increase. I felt then, as I continue to believe now, that it makes good business sense to raise people’s wages. I got some heavy-duty pushback from my professional colleagues about my position, as expected, but I also got comments from others who felt we shouldn’t be giving “hand outs.”
The issue of wages often boils down to value, worth and fairness. Each year, this newspaper publishes the names and wages of the highest paid municipal employees, and the community buzzes. Much of the chatter is whether the school superintendent or town manager or police officer should be paid what they receive. And much of how we feel depends on how much we personally are earning. We compare our wages to their pays even though the jobs are not comparable. We say “why do they make that much when we only make this much?” It becomes a fairness issue. We also wonder if their pay means higher taxes for us. Pay is personal, and that’s why it is hard to have a rational debate about raising the minimum wage.
While minimum wages remains a hot topic, the debate about immigration reform is hotter. Again, in a previous column I outlined the business reason on why Congress and the President should address this issue now. I believe we should secure our borders and we have a right to control who is allowed into this country. I also know that a managed influx of immigrants is good for our country, society and economy. We are a richer nation because of immigrants. And frankly, we need them. Ask most business owner who are struggling to find skilled labor. Immigrants fill this void.
I think about whether my grandfather would have been able to enter this country today. He came to America at the beginning of the last century and yes, he legally entered the country through Ellis Island after a long voyage across the Atlantic from Italy. By the time I was born, he had lived in the U.S. for 40 years, spoke broken English at best, but he had a good factory job, paid his taxes, married and supported my grandmother and 7 kids, owned a home, and he placed FDR just a step or two below the Almighty. And, he was never on welfare, as these immigrants took care of each other. He loved his adopted country and was tested when he sent his three sons to fight against his native land and people in WWII. However, today, some might think this non-English speaking immigrant would be stealing good paying minimum wage jobs from “real” Americans. Sad.
Our beliefs, actions and votes have a ripple effect. When you toss a rock into a lake, it creates a series of ripples well into the water beyond our view. There are consequences to our actions. Boycotting, suppressing wages, building a bigger wall. Be mindful of the ripples.
Rick Dacri is a workforce expert, management consultant, and author of the book “Uncomplicating Management: Focus On Your Stars & Your Company Will Soar.” Since 1995 his firm, Dacri & Associates has helped organizations dramatically improve the performance and productivity of their workforce. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and http://www.dacri.com.