Batten down the hatches. The documentary We The People: The Market Basket Effect chronicles one of the stranger labor disputes in recent memory – and also one of the most heartwarming, as it turned out. Market Basket, a chain of grocery stores founded by two brothers in 1954 in Lowell, Massachusetts, was a family-owned business but alas, the two halves of the family did not remotely get along.
Frequently fighting over the direction of the store and the allocation of profits, that conflict came to a head in June, 2014 when the board voted to fire its CEO Arthur T. Demoulas, son of one of the two founders. The thing is, however, the CEO had a very close relationship with employees, and was known for remembering birthdays, hospital visits and other such details even for employees he’d only met a few times. He was also widely seen as responsible for relatively generous benefits, leading to widespread perception that his firing was the first step by the company to slashing said benefits, or even selling the chain.
The result: employees revolted, and the controlling faction of the company handled the matter terribly at every step of the way. Attempts to quell employee unrest ended up causing widespread protests by employees leading to a boycott that ended up costing the company a reported $10 million a day. Meantime, the family’s dirty laundry was aired out in humiliating ways, giving the impression that The CEO’s firing was less about money and more about bitter family squabbles. By August, 2014, the humiliated board voted to sell a controlling share of the company to the fired CEO.
It’s crazy stuff, as you’ll see in this new trailer. Narrated by Michael Chiklis, it’s directed by Tommy Reid and written by Jeff Pinilla. Robert Friedman from Bungalow Media + Entertainment is producing along with Nick Buzzell from NBTV Studios. Also producing is Ted Leonsis, and it’s executive produced by Mike Buzzell and Todd Hoffman. Currently being shopped around, the film is playing a special screening this weekend during the Boston Film Festival.