LOS ANGELES, Calif.—More than 77,000 people have signed an online petition urging Walmart, Target and Toys R Us “to put people over profits and refuse to open their doors on Thanksgiving Day” so workers can spend the holiday with their families.
“It’s time to look at our family values. When did family day become shopping day?” says Cherri Senders, president of Labor 411, the Los Angeles-based group that posted the petition on Change.org Nov. 15. “It’s our job as labor activists to draw the line.”
Major chain stores began opening on Thanksgiving three to four years ago, she says, in an attempt to get a jump on other stores that were opening at dawn or as early as midnight on “Black Friday,” the traditional beginning of the Christmas-shopping season.
Labor 411, which offers consumers information on where to buy union-made goods, began posting similar petitions three years ago. This year, it singled out Walmart and Target, the two biggest U.S. dry-goods retailers opening stores on Thanksgiving, and Toys R Us, which will open on the holiday for the first time this year.
Toys R Us, which filed for bankruptcy in September, is one of the “bad apples,” Senders says, because, “you’re bankrupt and you’re making your employees work on Thanksgiving, and you’re paying your executives $33 million.” On Nov. 15, the company asked the bankruptcy court for permission to give its 17 top executives bonuses averaging almost $1 million each and possibly more, according to CNNMoney. It had given some of them a total of $8.2 million in “retention” bonuses before it filed.
Neither Walmart, Target, nor Toys R Us responded to queries from LaborPress. Ten other chains that are refusing to give workers the day off include Best Buy, Dollar General, GameStop, J.C. Penney, Kmart, Michaels, and Sears, according to Labor 411. Walmart does not pay employees extra for working on Thanksgiving.
But Costco and Home Depot, whose sales outrank Target according to 2015 figures from the National Retail Foundation, have never opened on Thanksgiving, says Senders. Neither have Lowe’s, Ikea, OfficeMax, and Crate and Barrel. This year, she adds, Modell’s, Fossil, Office Depot, and Steinmart, which were open last year, have decided to stay closed, and Old Navy has given its outlets the option to close.
“Retail is very faddish,” Senders says, so that makes this a perfect issue for consumers “to vote with their dollars.” The petition has been shared 3,200 times on Labor 411’s Facebook page, and drawn comments ranging from “My daughter works for Walmart. She has to work 10-hour days Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Saturday and Sunday…. If people would stop shopping on Thanksgiving, stores like Walmart would have to close” to “If you don’t want to work on Thanksgiving, don’t work in a box store…. Get over yourselves snowflakes.”
The New York-based P.C. Richard appliance-store chain is advertising that it’s giving its 2,766 workers the day off. “It is our opinion that retailers who choose to open on Thanksgiving show no respect for their employees and their families,” it says.
Opening on Thanksgiving has also spread to smaller businesses, however. “They think that because we’re young we don’t have families,” says a cashier at a Chelsea supermarket that will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
But at another supermarket a few blocks away, a cashier sighs yes with relief when asked if she’ll have the holiday off. Workers there are represented by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500.
Check out the petition here.