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Did Market Basket employees and customers make labor-management history in restoring their CSR-oriented president?

It’s been called “unheard of in American corporate history”.

And that’s just for openers.

Experts commenting on the just-resolved Market Basket case – in which employees and customers allied to restore the company’s stakeholder-oriented president – are effusive in their analyses: 

. Christopher Mackin, lecturer at Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations: “This show of group solidarity achieved what employees and customers asked for. This is unheard of in corporate America. It’s like 1776 – we get to pick who govern us.”

. Thomas A., Kochan, a professor of work and employment research at the Sloan School of Management at M.I.T. commented that the episode showed that “the employees are the most valuable asset in this business … Market Basket has done more to educate us on how to manage a business than any business case study that’s been written to date.”

Let’s be clear.  The Market Basket case could turn out to be a one-off. It required considerable effort and sacrifice by employees and consumers – work actions, boycotts, demonstrations, media relations etc. And, according to The New York Times, it  eventually involved “the intervention of two governors and an enormous public outcry.”

Of course the case runs counter to the long-prevailing corporate governance model of shareholder primacy. However, the increasing importance of a company’s reputation with key stakeholders — coupled with its importance to shareholders (such as the value of reputation-based soft assets on the balance sheet) — makes the case well worth pondering.

Whether or not “Market Basket” is “historic”, it nevertheless arguably strengthens the emerging model of corporate stakeholder governance.