For better or worse, Black Friday, the informal commercial holiday that follows the national holiday of Thanksgiving Day, has been a widely accepted fact of life for retail workers, and shoppers, for decades now. However, in the last few years, an effort by brick-and-mortar stores to compete with online retailers has led to earlier and earlier kickoffs to the official start of the holiday shopping season. Many stores now open their doors on Thanksgiving Day. This practice, along with other demands placed on retail workers by their employers during the holiday season, has serious consequences for these employees, and many are saying that enough is enough.
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When a store chooses to open its doors on Thanksgiving Day, they send a message to employees, and customers, about a company’s culture: commerce first. In fairness, the practice is much less harmful if the work day is optional, but for many retailers, that isn’t the case. Workers are expected to work their regular hours throughout the holiday season and must request time off if they’d like to spend Thanksgiving Day with their loved ones. Additionally, many employees might feel pressure to work on the holiday even if doing so is technically “optional.”
Several stores have made a commitment to preserve the holiday for their workers. Retailers such as American Girl, REI, Costco, Marshalls, Home Goods, Dillard’s, Sierra Trading Post, and TJ Maxx have already announced their intention to stay closed on Thanksgiving. Many of these stores have acknowledged that they are doing so out of respect to their workers.
But, a few major retailers will be open on Thanksgiving Day. Some will be open throughout the entire day and others beginning at 5 or 6 p.m. Kmart, Macys, Sears, Walmart, Staples, Toys R Us, JC Penney, Kohls, and Target are raring to go. Will the corporate leaders who made the decision to open stores on Thanksgiving work that day, too? It seems likely that many will celebrate the holiday with family and friends as they have always done while their employees head into work.
A group of protesters assembled in Greensboro, North Carolina on Monday to contest an area Walmart’s practice of opening on Thanksgiving Day. They asked for higher wages and better hours for employees who generally make less than $25,000 a year. Other protests are scheduled for later in the week.
A Boycott Black Thursday Facebook page has been up and running for a couple of years now, and over 100,000 people have shown their support of the cause via the site. Protests like these put pressure on companies to put employees and their families ahead of the bottom line on a national holiday in a variety of ways. Boycotting stores on Thursday supports this cause and keeps the commercial holiday in its proper place, after Thanksgiving.
Shoppers will weigh in with their wallets, or by abstaining from making purchases and staying home, this Thursday. Either way, customers will send a message to corporations through their actions, and this will impact stores’ practices in the years to come.
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