Market Basket employees got the boss they wanted. That’s good news for them, and maybe good news for the American worker, too.

Last week, the Demoulas Super Markets board of directors announced that it would sell a controlling interest in the company to ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas, who would come back immediately to run the company. The board had little choice: A top-to-bottom employee revolt and customer boycott in support of “Artie T.” was bleeding an estimated $10 million a day out of the company’s revenues and scaring away other potential buyers.

Now he’s back, and so are all the employees, from managers to baggers. Their happy ending is a return to the good pay and solid benefits they enjoyed under Demoulas’ leadership, and the friendly service and good values they brought to loyal and enthusiastic customers.

The employees also have sent a powerful message to workers across the country in a wide range of industries and businesses: Workers matter. They can be a company’s greatest asset and its greatest enemy. When they act together, they are a force that’s hard to resist.

That’s an important message for this Labor Day, even though Market Basket employees are not organized in a union. The Market Basket employees used the tools of the labor movement, organizing picket lines and boycotts, maintaining solidarity even when their jobs were in jeopardy and enlisting the support of loyal customers. They made the case that there was no company without them, and that gave them a voice in how their company will run from now on.

Workers haven’t had much to cheer about in recent years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, union membership has been declining for decades, with only 6.7 percent of private-sector employees as members in 2013, the lowest rate in a century.

Global trade has given manufacturers unprecedented ability to move production overseas, forcing American workers to compete with workers in the Third World. Real wages have been frozen for three decades, and wealth has transferred from the middle and working classes to the richest members of our society. Corporate profits soar while corporate investors are lauded as job creators. Workers pay the price of management mistakes, while corporate decision-makers reward themselves with bonuses even when they fail.

And then there is Market Basket.

This was not a cartoon battle between greedy workers and greedy owners, or a simplistic class war between evil corporations and the people.

Demoulas, with an estimated net worth of $675 million, is a member of the “1 percent,” but unlike others in his position, he has chosen to invest in his employees with good pay, education and retirement benefits. He has expanded his business relentlessly, creating new jobs and boosting local economies all over New England.

That kind of corporate citizenship was rewarded by Market Basket employees and customers. The board’s bottom-line-first-last-and-always attitude, which it showed by firing Demoulas, almost sank the company.

Most American workers do not have the generous pay, benefits and humane leadership that the Market Basket employees fought to keep. But Market Basket showed them how to make their voices heard.

That is the message that rings out this Labor Day.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: