Macy’s recently announced that for the first time, most of its 800 department stores will be open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
Macy’s decision to join a growing list of retailers that are kicking off Black Friday on Thanksgiving is not without controversy. Many retail workers and customers say that opening on Thanksgiving is cutting into family time and keeping retail workers away from their families on this important holiday.
In 2011, a Target worker named Anthony Hardwick made headlines by starting a change.org petition urging Target to save Thanksgiving and not open early for Black Friday. The petition got more than 100,000 signatures – but Target opened anyway. Last year, Walmart decided to open its doors early at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, and more than 30,000 people signed a moveon.org petition in protest. On the days leading up to and on Black Friday, workers and members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) made history with strikes in more than 100 cities to protest Walmart’s attempt to silence workers who speak out for positive change.
It’s obvious that retail workers want a say in their scheduling, and that a lot of Americans agree they should have a choice – particularly when it comes to working on a celebrated American holiday like Thanksgiving. But, as long as people are willing to stand in line outside in the cold for door busters and deals, retailers will be pushed to open earlier. And there’s only one way to ensure workers have a say in whether or not they work: a union contract.
Thousands of Macy’s workers across the country in New England, New York, Seattle, San Francisco and other areas are members of the UFCW and have a union contract that protects them on the job. Thanks to this contract, union workers at Macy’s have a powerful voice in their own scheduling and can decide whether they’d rather stay home on Thanksgiving or work extra hours. In fact, union stores in the New England, Seattle, and other areas won’t be open on Thanksgiving because their union contract protects this day as a paid holiday for workers. In other locations where workers have a union contract, workers can sign up to work on a volunteer basis. Where there aren’t enough volunteers, Macy’s is hiring seasonal employees.
No matter how people feel about whether it’s right or wrong to open on Thanksgiving Day, a union contract gives workers a chance to decide for themselves – and that’s just what’s happening. Many Macy’s workers have decided to work the shift because they want to put something aside for the holidays, and a Thanksgiving shift means they’ll earn the extra holiday or premium pay they negotiated in their contracts. Others have decided to stay home and celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with their families. This provision in the union contract is just one of the things that makes a union job at Macy’s one of the best retail jobs in the country.