Black Friday is a uniquely American consumerist faux “holiday” that I will never understand. Do millions of people really want to endure screaming toddlers and hordes of teenagers at the mall just so they can buy an Old Navy fleece for 20 percent off? No, thanks.
But for the retail workers who have to mediate the screaming toddler hellscape, they have little or no choice. Now, some retail employees, such as those at Walmart and Target who are seeing “Black Friday” begin earlier and earlier each year, they are saying enough is enough.
Let’s hold off for a moment about the fact that a good number of people are either a) in a trpyophan coma or b) drunk by those hours on Thanksgiving. I’m not saying everyone is drunk, but I am saying that after hours and hours with family, more people than normal are … out of sorts. It does not sound super-safe to me to suggest we put those people on the roads. (Also? Traffic! Hello!)
The bigger problem is that Thanksgiving is a federal holiday. Walmart and Target are both asking their employees to work on a day that, according to labor laws, they are supposed to have off. (It’s unclear whether they are being paid overtime or time-and-a-half for their troubles.) [Update: It has been pointed out to me that this paragraph makes it sound like I'm implying that working on federal holidays is illegal; it obviously is not.]
It is a legal question, yes, but a cultural one as well. Thanksgiving is ostensibly a holiday to be spent with family and friends, watching football, or volunteering at a soup kitchen — not charging the AmEx card. Via Racked, one Target employee of six years has started a Change.org petition asking the CEO of Target to halt their “Thanksgiving Creep” and though she gets a little preachy by the end of it, I agree with her logic completely:
I have no problem with Black Friday. I thought it was interesting the first year I worked the 4am opening. Last year’s opening at midnight was pushing it. By the time I left around 8am, I was absolutely exhausted. … I’m not complaining about being a minimum wage worker. Target, as a company, does some good and maintains a commitment to charity. Thanksgiving, though, is one of the three days retail workers get off a year, a day most spend with family. The issue is not black Friday, though it’s not exactly this country’s shining moment. Every year the opening time gets pushed up more and more. Midnight last year was pushing it. How can you expect workers to spend time with family and then stay up all night. It’s inhumane and inconsiderate. You are most likely tucked away in bed while workers are in the stores pushing back a rabid crowd of shoppers trying to get an iPod. A 9pm opening disgusts me and symbolizes everything that is wrong with this country. Give Thanksgiving back to families. The world won’t end if people have wait 7 more hours to buy useless junk that will be outdated in a year anyway.
As of noon on Monday morning, the petition has garnered 353,019 signatures. I’m sadly stunned by the number of people who added comments to their signature adding that they themselves or loved ones have missed Thanksgiving holidays with family to work.
I understand some people will always have to work on holidays: police, firefighters, emergency personnel, some doctors, some journalists, even people at the grocery store. Those people go into their jobs knowing their hours will always be weird. (Well, not the grocery store peeps, but you know what I mean.) But folks who work at Walmart and Target are not essential to making the world run. They’re only essential to improving these companies’ bottom line (with gun sales!) … and give toddlers some place to scream.
Are you being asked to work on Thanksgiving (or insanely early on Black Friday)? Let us know in the comments!
Contact the author of this post at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter.