Wait...no. That's not right. What I meant to say is: It's the day when consumerism wins the day, mob mentality rules and corporations make their disdain and contempt for their employees ever more clear. Yes, it's Black Friday! Wait...except Black Friday now starts actually ON Thanksgiving. The media is acting like this is something Totally New and Shocking! (It's not.) But I guess I should just be happy they're covering it at all.
I posted about this last year and I don't fool myself that this journal has any kind of real viewership or impact, it's basically just me, spitting in the wind. But here I go again, because I just can't let this go.
Target is opening their doors at 12 a.m. Friday morning this year. Much to their amazement, this is apparently not ok with a large number of their workforce. What!? Our associates don't want to sleep away their Thanksgiving dinners and football games so they can work a long shift that will be filled with customers climbing over each other to get the newest/latest/cheapest/last toy/television/thing for $7.75 an hour? THEY SHOULD JUST BE GRATEFUL TO HAVE A JOB! This is what all the upper management retailers are indignantly screeching from their homes where they will spend Thanksgiving eating turkey with their family and loved ones. While the people they insist should be grateful are unloading trucks and readying themselves to greet the rampaging hoards.
Let me just point out the obvious here. It is entirely possible to be grateful that you have a job and still be dissatisfied with how that job impacts your life and how you are treated at the job. A starving person would be grateful for a piece of stale bread, that doesn't mean they want to eat that forever or should stop trying to improve their diet.
It's a really hard time to be a worker in America right now. States like Wisconsin are waging war against collective bargaining rights. In Maine, the governor removed a mural depicting Maine's labor history from the Department of Labor. Unemployment is anywhere from 9.7% to 16.6% depending on if you count the underemployed and the people who have stopped looking for work (which you should). Middle class earnings have been pretty much the same since the 1970's. Newt Gingrich is telling members of the Occupy Wall Street movement to take a bath and get a job (see above unemployment numbers). Employees are not considered people by their employers. They are disposable annoyances and employers are constantly looking for ways to cut payroll.
Which is why it is laughable to me when I hear the National Retail Federation come out in support of these earlier and earlier Black Friday times by saying employees who are forced to work that day should be grateful (that word again!) because it means more hours and job security. Um...no, it doesn't mean that at all. It means you work that day or lose your job. And if you work, it doesn't mean that once the holiday season is over they won't cut your hours or even lay you off because there are always a thousand more applications from people willing to work cheaper or part time, which you can't because you need the health benefits. Or because they found someone who doesn't have to pick up her kids at 4:00 every day. Or because you failed to meet whatever arbitrary sales goal they came up with. Working on Thanksgiving means...you're working on Thanksgiving. That's it.
Listen carefully because this is what employers are saying. "We don't value you as a worker, as a member of a family who needs you, we don't value your time or your morale or you as a person in any way." Listen carefully and then decide if you want to support that with your money and patronage. Because it will stay this way and continue to get worse until consumers refuse to participate. The companies don't care until someone who matters forces them to. The only people who matter to them are the consumers. I understand that requires a sacrifice on the part of people who are struggling financially and may rely on these deals and bargains. I believe it's worth the sacrifice. I hope you do, too.