Two weeks ago, we celebrated Thanksgiving, a time-honored traditional American holiday embracing Christian ideals such as sharing and gratefulness. We welcome friends and family to our bountiful table.
It is one of my favorite holidays as I remember my grandmother’s huge Thanksgiving table surrounded by family. We were blessed. But, how did sitting down elbow to elbow turn into sharp elbows competing with each other for things on this holiday?
This year the greed of Black Friday spread into Thanksgiving Day at 8 p.m. or earlier. Many flocked to stores, but how many thought about how it was to work on Thanksgiving. While millions of families planned to spend quality time with their loved ones, Walmart associates were told they would be stocking shelves and preparing sales. It is true, there have always been those that had to work on Thanksgiving — nurses, fire and police — but they provided essential services.
Walmart again led the pack with extended hours for Black Friday. This year retailers particularly antsy for crowds included not only Walmart, but Kmart, Target, Sears and Toys R Us, a move that was met with resistance from employees who had to work on the holiday. This took the form of protests by Walmart associates and their supporters.
These protests were never about boycotting or affecting Walmart’s bottom line. It was about changing the national debate about workers and pay inequity in this country. Each worker’s protest was an act of courage unimaginable for most of us. These are people who can’t afford to lose their jobs, but they risked that for economic justice and respect.
Opening on Thanksgiving shows companies do not value their workers. They’re looking to their workers to squeeze out more profits in retail sales. In Paramount, near Los Angeles, about 600 protesters, including an estimated 100 Walmart workers, turned out Friday morning. There were protests and demonstrations around the country with more than 2,000 news stories covering these historic actions.
What is more important, the Thanksgiving ritual or the commercialism and competition for the best deal? Shoppers put their turkey down to take advantage of an early start to holiday shopping. But what about the retail workers? On the same day that we give thanks for all we have, why must we also rush out to buy more? How about everyone being able to give thanks on Thanksgiving.
Lee Perkins moved to Atascadero with her family in 1986 and is now retired. She has worked as a secretary, office administrator/public relations, and school counselor K-12.For the complete article see the 12-07-2012 issue.
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