Our VoiceCulture

Workers Resisting Black Friday Shifts

Catharine Debelle • Nov 24, 2011

photo taken from tympsy's flickr page

This year for Black Friday stores are opening earlier than ever before.

Typically retailers open around 4 AM, offering promotional sales to kick off the shopping season. This year, though, retail giants like Target, Macy’s, and Best Buy are opening at midnight on Thanksgiving Day. Some other large stores announced they would be opening even earlier. Forcing employees to either go without sleep or skip Thanksgiving with their families is simply wrong.

That in mind, some workers are fighting back, with several having started online petitions. Anthony Hardwick, a part-time clerk at Target, is scheduled to start his shift at 11 PM on Thanksgiving Day, forsaking precious time with his fiancée. He launched a petition on Change.org urging Target to Save Thanksgiving. His petition already has more than 194,000 signatures.

Hardwick writes on the website: “A midnight opening robs the hourly and in-store salary workers of time off with their families on Thanksgiving Day. A full holiday with family is not just for the elite of this nation—all Americans should be able to break bread with loved ones and get a good night’s rest on Thanksgiving!”

In a media response Target stated that it has to open at midnight on Friday to stay competitive. Furthermore, the chain insists that doing so does not pose a hardship for employees, and that many workers actually enjoy the Black Friday weekend shifts.

“At every single Target store, the majority of our team members enjoy working on Black Friday and want to be there for the opening,” says Tina Schiel, executive vice president of Target stores. “I heard from several stores that news of the midnight opening was met with enthusiasm from the majority of our team members; I wasn’t surprised one bit. While it’s hard work, there’s just this great frenetic energy about the day.”

On the contrary anyone who has ever worked retail knows that working the holidays is not fun, Black Friday especially. In fact Black Friday has led to many violent accidents in recent years. Like an incident in 2008 in Valley Stream, New York, where a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death.

Personally I’ve never understood Black Friday. Thanksgiving is about enjoying dinner with friends and family. I don’t understand the urge, or why with creeping fatigue from the day’s feast anyone would want to stand in the cold and wait outside mega-stores in order to save on a few deals.

This season shoppers should join in solidarity with workers and sign the Save Thanksgiving pledge. Like Hardwick writes, Thanksgiving is time to be thankful for friends and family, and to enjoy a delicious meal.

This Black Friday, shoppers should not just wait in teeming hoards outside malls to buy another object that will supposedly embody love and affection. Instead, stand for the rights of all workers, and spend the holidays with your family.  

Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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