Walmart has announced it will open its stores at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, joining retailers like Target, Best Buy, Kmart, Macy’s, Kohl’s, J.C. Penney, and Toys R Us that are cutting their workforce’s holiday short to pursue holiday season profits. Kmart will open its doors the earliest of all the stores, opening at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
“Almost everybody to date has moved up, at least one hour, if not more,” Walmart Chief Marketing Officer Duncan Mac Naughton said Monday. “We thought 6 o’clock was the exact right time to win the weekend.” He explained that the 1 million workers needed to staff stores are “really excited to work that day.”
Last year, Walmart faced protests and strikes for creeping into holiday hours. The 8 p.m. start time prompted an online petition that collected more than 30,000 signatures. As consolation, the retailer said it will pay workers higher holiday wages, give them one 25 percent discount on a transaction, and give them a free meal.
What Walmart did not explain in its announcement is that 1 million workers have little choice but to work. Retailers have insisted they will afford time off to any worker who want to spend time with their families. However, far from being “excited” to work the holiday rush, it’s more likely managers have flatly told staff they cannot request the time off. The Huffington Post has reported on several signs popping up in Kmart stores that tell employees to not even bother requesting time off. (Kmart replied those were “rogue” signs.)
And the workers who volunteer to show up on a holiday may be doing so because they can’t otherwise get enough hours. More than 8 million people are currently working part time but want to be full time. Erratic scheduling is not only an issue that hits Walmart around the frantic holiday season; it’s long been accused of understaffing and constantly changing schedules, and retail in general has become known for shortchanging workers on the hours they need. Furthermore, Walmart’s aggressive use of a temporary work force throughout the year already leaves workers without benefits, predictable scheduling, and enough pay. Even when retail workers are full-time, they struggle to survive on low wages and are not necessarily guaranteed vacation time.