Midterm elections are Tuesday.
I’ve spoken with a lot of people about them, and alas, many people are not interested in voting. I’ve heard, “What’s the point?” more times than I can count.
Historically, midterm elections receive very low voter turnout.
I live in New Hampshire. This summer one of our local supermarkets made national and international news. A family-owned, Massachusetts-based supermarket had a scuffle that changed the way a lot of people feel about Big Business.
Some background in case you missed it: two cousins were in leadership roles in a local supermarket chain. Both cousins are named Artie after their grandfather, Arthur Demoulas, founder of what is now known as Market Basket.
Grandfather Arthur died and left the supermarket to his sons. One allegedly screwed the other out of millions of dollars, sparking animosity. That generation passed away, and the two cousin Arthurs were left in charge.
Artie T. was CEO. Artie S. was chairman of a board of directors made up of an equal number of family members from both sides. One thing led to another, a family member changed her vote, and the CEO Artie T. was ousted.
A good friend of mine works part-time for this supermarket, so I was privy to the employee’s perspective on the events that occurred. Here’s the thing that made what would normally be just another corporate chess move so interesting: CEO Artie T. is beloved by all of the employees.
He would walk into his stores and greet employees by name, asking about their families and remembering what he was told. Managers worked for him for 10, 20, 30 years and more. No unions, just employees at a supermarket.
When Artie T. was ousted, the employees rallied to his defense, asking friends and family to stop shopping there, and to start picketing the store. They picketed after they completed their shifts. Word spread, and all customers stopped shopping at Market Basket.
Everyone who drove past the workers tooted their horns to show their support. Employees were brought food and water on hot days and umbrellas on wet days. Customers stood with employees outside the stores, holding signs. Rallies were held at the corporate headquarters, attended by thousands of people, employees and customers alike.
Unions tried to come in and “organize” the workers. They were rejected. The co-CEOs brought in by the board of directors laid off the store managers, and in what appeared to be an attempt to avoid penalties from the Department of Labor, reduced part-time workers to zero hours. They were not officially laid off, but they had no unemployment benefits or income.
Communities rallied to support the part-time workers. Competitor supermarkets hired the part-time staff, who were told that should Artie T. return, they could leave without notice, no questions asked.
And the customers stayed away.
I normally shop at a different supermarket which is closer to my home, but I would go into Market Basket from time to time to pick up items my store didn’t carry. Staying away wasn’t a hardship for me, but I know a lot of people who depended on this store’s better prices in order to stretch their weekly grocery dollars, and going to the competitors was a hardship.
But still, they stayed away.
Market Basket lost millions of dollars. Analysts were betting that even if the situation could be resolved, the store may still go under. The analysts were also betting that in order for the company to be successful again, they would need to raise their prices to recoup their losses.
After 6+ weeks, a deal was made and Artie T. bought the chain and came back. So did the ousted senior managers and the part-time workers. And the community. When they re-opened, they instituted a 4% discount off customer’s total grocery bill through the end of the year, as a thank you for their support during the store’s tough time.
Two months later, Market Basket is back and stronger than ever, building new Market Baskets in new communities. I—and I’m sure others like me—have been so impressed by this whole experience, that I now drive out of my way to do my weekly shopping at Market Basket.
This is a community in which I am proud to be a part.
So what does all of this have to do with voting on Tuesday? It’s simple. If a group of people can dramatically effect the corporate decisions of a privately held company, then why can’t we replicate this on a larger scale?
Everywhere people are bemoaning The Corporations/The Unions/Wall Street/(insert your personal Evil Empire here) having power over us. People believe that we cannot affect the world as it is. It is out of our control. What can one person do?
But in reality, this is done every day, whether it makes the news or not. I’ve seen it. We all have.
So please, go out and vote on Tuesday. Do a little research before you go—a quick Google search will tell you who has done what and where each candidate stands. Don’t base your votes on what you see on TV; whether it’s a candidate’s ad or a smear ad, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. In 15 minutes, you can educate yourself on your candidates before you go to the polls. Many are open until 8pm, so you don’t even have to leave work early.
Please do not turn your back on the voting booth and let other people decide how your government is run.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Kendra Hackett
Editor: Travis May