Daily WTF: Forcing Retail and Restaurant Employees to Work on Major Holidays

For the past four years or so, retailers and restaurants have been slowly encroaching on Thanksgiving and Christmas.  They’re bolder around Thanksgiving as it is the day before Black Friday, the largest shopping day of the year and the weekend in which some retailers make up to 30% of their annual revenue.  Everyone tries to outdo their competitors, usually by offering to open earlier and earlier.  This year, JCPenney opens at 3pm Thanksgiving, Kohl’s opens at 6pm, Macy’s opens at 6pm, and Old Navy opens at 4pm.  For a more comprehensive list of when major retailers are open today and tomorrow, click here.

There are many people who don’t mind working on Thanksgiving, either because they don’t celebrate the holiday, don’t want to celebrate the holiday, or get some kind of incentive to work like overtime, holiday pay, or extra vacation days.  I have a few friends who work retail and insurance who actually volunteered.  So it’s not like working on a holiday is a life-ending event.  I get that.

However, I still have a problem with forcing people to work on Thanksgiving, especially if the service they offer is non-essential.  I can’t justify closing all hospitals, police stations, military bases, and insurance companies for 24 hours because people could literally die.  People won’t die if Old Navy, Sonic, and the Disney Store close for 24 hours.

What really bothers me about making people work on Thanksgiving is that the same people that companies are forcing to work are the ones we as a society are most disdainful of.  We refuse to give them a living wage, allow managers to schedule them 30 minutes less than full-time so companies don’t have to give them benefits, make it impossible for them to report fraudulent behavior like putting overtime on next week’s schedule (so they don’t have to be paid for it), won’t let them unionize, and assume that we can be as mean and nasty as we want to them without any repercussions (I mean, the customer’s always right, right?).

It’s really just the principle of the thing.  Why can’t retailers and restaurants treat their workers with dignity and respect?  Why can’t they give them one or two days off a year to spend with their family, friends, or by themselves?  Why can’t we value these workers as human beings providing a service we want and need?  And why is consumerism more important than relationships and self-care?

Retail and restaurant workers should be treated with basic respect, and every time corporations and consumers don’t do so — either by refusing to raise minimum wage or making people work on holidays or on extremely poor weather days — we send a very clear message that these workers are not important.  We contribute to their dehumanization, which makes it easier to fire them for getting sick, threaten them for being a whistleblower, or scream at them because we brought in the wrong coupon.  So that’s why I don’t like stores being open on holidays.  If I, a non-profit worker, am allowed to spend the day with my friends and family and focus on myself, retail and restaurant workers should be allowed to too.  After all, they are no less important or hard-working.  They deserve to be treated with the same respect and consideration.

* Photo taken from http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/11/22/1255378/-Which-stores-are-open-and-which-are-closed-on-Thanksgiving

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