The drama in the Market Basket standoff has impacted thousands of families – beyond the Demoulas – to their workers and customers. Some are those who can least afford to shop at more expensive grocery stores. And one family’s entire livelihood depends on their Market Basket paychecks.
Sue and Mike Pieslak are truly a Market Basket family.
“I started at 16-years-old in Haverhill, the Haverhill Westgate Market Basket and then at 19 I went up to the main office to be an executive secretary, and that's still wht I'm doing," Sue said.
"I started at 16 as a sacker in the Chelmsford Market Basket and I’ve just moved up the corporate ladder from there," Mike said.
They met in the office headquarters, got married and had their now-teenage daughter, Julie.
“I’ve worked at Market Basket for three years as a cashier. And the last time I worked was the day that people were starting to understand what was happening and they were talking to me about it,” Julie said.
The Pieslaks live in Lowell, just a few miles from the company headquarters in Tewksbury. Three weeks ago, Sue walked out after her boss, Arthur T. Demoulas, was fired.
Sue has been picketing outside her office every day since. And Julie joins her because her hours have been completely cut back. Mike still has to go to work, as an assistant manager in the Bellingham store, but he says it’s dead quiet.
“Without these customers this couldn’t work at this point. We are doing the best we can but the customers are really the ones that are staying out of the stores. So they’re not buying the product. Without them this wouldn’t work at this point. They need a lot of credit,” he said.
The Pieslaks are starting to get nervous. Sure, they have savings, but they're down to one income and cancelled a family vacation planned for this week.
“Why are you spending this money? Who knows how long she's going to be out of work? But I think a big factor was I don't think we'd have a good time. I think our minds would be on Market Basket."
Spending money is tight for Julie, who’s not shopping for back to school clothes like she did last year.
“I don’t really need new clothes for the school year. I mean, I need supplies, but that can come later,” she said.
“Later” brings some anxiety, as the Pieslak family has been waiting for more than three weeks for some conclusion.
“Either they bring him back, we’ll all come back, or they don’t and the company just implodes and we’re not going to have jobs anyway. They’ll be nothing. I’m not walking into that building until I know he’s coming back.”
Weeks of worker demonstrations and a resulting strike are a contrast to the Demoulas’ quiet activity behind closed doors. It’s difficult to tell who determines the fate of workers like the Pieslaks: they themselves, Market Basket customers, or the Demoulas family.
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