As bargain shoppers make their Black Friday lists and check them twice, retail employees are rising in protest against the shopping holiday.
In recent weeks retailers like Toys R’ Us, Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart and many others have been competing for the attention of Black Friday shoppers. In the past few years, stores opened their doors at midnight with door-busting sales. But now retailers are fighting against each other by moving the time closer into the evening of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Unfortunately, retail employees have to sacrifice their Thanksgiving holiday so shoppers can get a head start on Christmas lists.
“It shouldn’t have to be a rushed affair, slipping in to eat some turkey and taking a piece of pie for the road,” said Casey St. Clair, a part-time Target employee and substitute teacher. St. Clair is scheduled to work Wednesday night from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. and return Thanksgiving Day before 9 p.m. and work until 5:15 a.m.
St. Clair said she initially enjoyed working for Target for the past six years until the Black Friday mayhem kicked in. She started a petition on Change.org requesting that Target CEO Gregg W. Steinhafel cancel the Thanksgiving Day opening.
“It’s one of few days retail employees get to spend with their families, but at this point there’s no time to see family,” St. Clair said.
A group of Wal-Mart employees share the same sentiments and are planning to boycott over 1,000 stores on Black Friday. Sears, Kmart, and Kohl’s employees followed in St. Clair’s footsteps by creating over 40 petitions on Change.org asking employers to “give Thanksgiving back to families.”
Change.org is promoting the employees’ efforts as the number of petitions and signatures continue to grow.
“Employees and customers alike are saying, ‘Thanksgiving should be about celebrating with family, not shopping for the latest deals,’” said Change.org spokesperson Charlotte Hill.
Visitors to the site shared how they will boycott stores imposing on the employee holiday.
“I’m a conscious consumer; I think of good reasons to shop where I do, and consider why and why not to give any store my money. Seeing this happen year after year to the employees of Target irks me, and makes me want to…take my money elsewhere,” one visitor commented.
Relatives of employees are also speaking out against the holiday infringement.
“Family has always been important to me and Thanksgiving is all about family,” said Jennifer Ann, who created the “Target: Don’t take away Thanksgiving” petition.
Ann, whose 24-year-old brother works for Target, wrote the petition on behalf of her family. She said it was difficult for her brother to enjoy the holiday with their family last year since he had to work.
“This year, he’s going to miss dinner altogether,” she said. “It’s just unfortunate that he has to be at work when we’re celebrating. I get that you sign up for things like this. (But) you don’t typically have to work on Thanksgiving when you work in retail, and this is something that’s kind of gradually happened.”
Target said that they’ve taken their employees’ concerns into consideration.
“Target’s opening time was carefully evaluated with our guests, team, and the business in mind. Across the country, team member preferences were considered in creating our store staffing schedules,” said spokesperson Molly Snyder. “Thanksgiving weekend is one of the busiest of the year, and we appreciate our Target team’s flexibility on this weekend and throughout the holiday season.”
Snyder said that holiday employees will be paid equal time and a half of their hourly rate. Some employees working particular hours on Thanksgiving and the day after will receive differential pay and holiday premium pay.
Despite having 24 hour stores, several petitions named Wal-Mart as a Black Friday offender. Last year, the store traffic reached a peak during the 10 p.m. hour Thanksgiving night.
“We appreciate our associates for everything they do to serve our customers during this busy shopping season and every day throughout the year,” said Wal-Mart spokesperson Steve Restivo.
Retail experts say that the power behind changing this type of retail schedule lies in the hands of consumers. Rich Milgram, CEO of Beyond.com, explained that Labor Day and Memorial Day were also once restful holidays that have now become normal shopping days filled with sale prices. He believes that these patterns show the changes and demands of the free market system.
”This says less about the retailer and more about society as a whole. Target, Sears, Kmart and others are doing what they need to do to maximize sales and profits,” Milgram said.
Experts also believe that due to the challenging economy with high unemployment, many employees are willing to take advantage of the opportunity to work.
“In today’s economy where jobs are scarce and unemployment is high, people are willing to do more now than they were willing to do two to three years ago. This is especially true in retail. Black Friday alone last year led to almost $12 billion in sales, so you can understand the employer’s stance on this issue,” said Bill Peppler of Kavaliro, a staffing firm.
Some may wonder if Christmas and New Year’s will soon become shopping-centered holidays as well.
“I would suggest they are much less at risk because most of the shopping we see at Thanksgiving is in anticipation of Christmas. The incentive for retailers to open on Christmas and New Year’s is much lower, “said Brooks Holtom, an associated professor of management at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.