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Keller @ Large: Market Basket Message – Will Corporate Executives Hear It?

By Jon Keller, WBZ-TV Political Analyst
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A thank you sign in the lobby of Market Basket headquarters in Tewksbury. (Photo by Ken Tucci-WBZ-TV)

A thank you sign in the lobby of Market Basket headquarters in Tewksbury. (Photo by Ken Tucci-WBZ-TV)

WBZ-TV's Jon Keller Jon Keller
Jon Keller is WBZ-TV News' Political Analyst, and his "Keller A...
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BOSTON (CBS) – “Power to the people, right on!” –  John Lennon

OK, maybe the Market Basket revolt wasn’t exactly what Lennon had in mind when he wrote that lyric.

But if the sale of Market Basket to Arthur T. Demoulas results in its return to profitability and a continuation of its generous employee benefits, it will send a clear message to greed-crazed executives and stockholders of companies with miserable employees that an alternative business model – one that satisfies and motivates its workers while making millionaires of its owners – exists.

It’s a message that could help heal our festering problems with income inequality, worker resentment toward executive salary inflation, etc. But will corporate elites hear it, and heed it?

Not if they take their cue from the Wall Street Journal op-ed page, where columnist Holman Jenkins Jr. submitted three completely clueless columns denigrating Arthur T. during the Market Basket saga.

Some choice excerpts:

July 29th: “Where the economic dynamics are unforgivingly competitive if not fundamentally commodity-like, it pays to doubt any charismatic leader’s ability to beat the spread over the long term.”

Never mind the long-term Market Basket success story under Arthur T.’s guidance.

August 8th: “Workers might have found their leverage greater if they had rolled with the change in control from Arthur T. to Arthur S. rather than forcing a crisis that ends with the company being sold and worked to satisfy debt holders.”

But that didn’t happen thanks to the leverage the workers recognized they had and applied to the end, despite entreaties from Gov. Patrick and others to throw it away.

August 15th: “Pundits go right on praising Market Basket as an exemplar of ‘stakeholder capitalism,’ an invidious phrase that means that whatever shareholders are getting, it should be less. In the unlikely event that Arthur T.’s version of stakeholder capitalism ever gets a close examination, however, a different story is likely to be told: He ran a good store and was a good leader. But he also ran the business in such a way that the only profits minimized were the profits flowing to the 50.5% of family shareholders whom he’d much rather be punching.”

If this uninformed, reactionary mindset is also that of the Journal’s executive readers, the lessons of Market Basket may well go unlearned.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

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