By Christy Strawser
CBS Detroit Managing Editor
As more retailers try to turn Thanksgiving Thursday into Black Friday — some employees are fighting back.
More than 80,000 people signed an online petition on change.org asking retail giant Target to reverse its decision to open its doors on Thanksgiving Day — and allow workers to spend the holiday with family and friends.
There are hundreds of comments on the petition supporting retail workers’ rights to Thanksgiving Day off, including this one from Caroline Hemenway: “This is absurd! Corporations are treating their workforce like serfs and fomenting a toxic consumer culture. Pure, unadulterated greed.”
The campaign was launched by Anthony Hardwick, a Target employee from Omaha, Nebraska, following news that the company’s management had moved the standard Black Friday opening time from 5 a.m. on Friday to midnight on Thanksgiving. The new opening time will require employees to arrive at work by 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
“All Americans should be able to break bread with loved ones on Thanksgiving,” said Hardwick, who works as a part-time parking attendant at a Target store in Omaha, in a press release from change.org. ”With the midnight opening, employees like myself will have to leave for work right in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner. We don’t mind hard work, but cutting into our holidays is a step too far.”
“If Target doesn’t reverse its decision and allow associates to spend Thanksgiving holidays with their family, they might suffer from a fast-growing consumer backlash,” Hardwick added.
Will they? After Target, Macy’s, Best Buy and Kohl’s announced plan to open at midnight on Thanksgiving – the biggest fish of them all — Walmart — decided to go even further and open at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving.
“We’re trying to stay ahead of the curve,” explained Steve Schuknecht, general manager of the Tanger Outlet Center in Howell. “We’ll offer a free premium $10 gift card to the first 250 people in line when we open. We do try to drive traffic that way and create a buzz.”
That may be a bonanza for avid shoppers, but how about all those hard-working retailers who have to leave their families to man the registers? Schuknecht takes it in stride.
“I don’t like the fact I have to come in on Thanskgiving, but when you work in retail it’s the nature of the beast,” Schuknecht said. “I understand the value of it. Our traffic has been tremendous.”
Other major retailers are choosing to remain closed on Thanksgiving Day, citing their employees’ right to a holiday.
“We wanted to give our associates Thanksgiving Day to spend with their families,” said Bill Gentner, senior vice president for marketing at J.C. Penney, in an interview with the New York Times.
Locally, when news first broke about retailers turning Thanksgiving Thursday into Black Friday, Jennifer Hamilton Boisvenue posted on CBS Detroit’s Facebook wall, “No ‘thing’ is worth more than my time whether it’s time relaxing at home or spent with friends for the holiday. Pure insanity all in the name of consumerism.”
Facebook fan Chris Stearns wrote, “And I thought 4 a.m. was too early to get up and go shopping.”