Market Basket CEOs say they share commitment to customers, urge protesting workers to return

The Market Basket supermarket chain's new co-CEOs on Tuesday urged protesting employees to go back to work, saying they are committed to continuing the company's "tradition of excellence and dedication."

Felicia Thornton and Jim Gooch also said they saw no alternative but to take the "difficult step" of firing eight senior employees, including some of the protest's leaders, saying those employees "took significant actions that harmed the company and therefore compromised Market Basket's ability to be there for our customers." It was their first comment since the firings on Sunday.

Workers demanding the return of ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas have stopped some deliveries, leaving empty shelves at stores, and thousands have attended rallies to enlist other staffers and customers in their cause. The company has 71 stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.

Demoulas said Monday the workers shouldn't have been fired and should be reinstated. He said Market Basket's success was "not about me" but a result of a good business model and the "impassioned associates" who carried it out.

He was fired in June by a board controlled by his rival cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, in a long-running feud over leadership of the family business.

The workers say they fear the company means to eliminate the low prices and good employee benefits it has been known for. Thornton and Gooch have said they don't plan changes in its direction.

The new CEOs said they share many of Arthur T. Demoulas' sentiments about their employees and customers.

"We are committed to earning the trust and acceptance of our associates and Market Basket's customers and hope that our associates will judge us not on our promises but on our actions as we move forward," the CEOs said.