Best Buy is the latest retailer to open on Thanksgiving Day this year, rather than waiting for the rush of shoppers on Black Friday. Its stores will open at 6 p.m. on November 28 and stay open until 10 p.m. the next day.
Other retailers have announced similar plans, including Kmart, Macy’s, Kohl’s, J.C. Penney, and Toys R Us. Kmart has gone further than most by opening its stores at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving.
While the stores claim that no one is being forced to work during the holiday and that they will be staffed with those who volunteer and seasonal hires, workers at Kmart have sent photos to the Huffington Post of signs warning that no one will be granted time off requests during the holiday period. Georgette Griffith, an employee in an Alabama location, said she was denied her request to take the day off. The company has told the Huffington Post that the signs are “rogue” and don’t represent its policy.
Kmart was open on Thanksgiving last year but closed for a few hours in the evening and before opening on Black Friday so workers could go home to their families.
Even those volunteering to work during the holidays may be doing so because they struggle to get enough hours to live off of their wages. More than 8 million people work part-time involuntarily either because they can’t find a full-time job or their employer won’t give them more hours. Control over which hours they work and how their schedule varies from week to week are also frequently out of retail workers’ hands: In a survey of hundreds of New York City workers, the Retail Action Project found that 20 percent of workers have to be available at any time for “call-in” shifts, more than a third said they are often sent home earlier than expected, and others report having their schedules change by the hour. Meanwhile, getting more hours is increasingly treated as an incentive and denying hours as a tool for discipline. Workers from Walmart to Juicy Couture have been protesting this erratic scheduling and the havoc it wreaks on their lives.
Full-time workers also struggle to get the time off that they want or need. Nearly one in four workers lacks vacation time and holidays. The United States is the only advanced country that doesn’t guarantee that all workers get paid vacation time. But the part-time workforce feels this lack more acutely: only about 35 percent of those who work part time get paid vacation, compared to 91 percent of full timers.