About ten workers will go on strike at two Whole Foods stores in Chicago on Wednesday to protest having to come to work on Thanksgiving, Salon’s Josh Eidelson reports. They will then join a rally in the afternoon with fast food workers, Walmart workers, and supporters.
Matthew Camp, an employee and member of the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago (WOOC), told Eidelson that while they work hard so people can enjoy the holiday, “we would like to be able to participate in the holiday ourselves.” He added that “it’s a question of respect.” Given that he has a shift on Thursday, he said he won’t be able to spend the holiday with his family in Texas.
In response to the strike, a company spokesperson told Salon, “Whole Foods Market supports fair wages and the rights of all workers, and we support groups who want to express their opinions and raise awareness for their cause, as long as they remain on public property.” She also noted that it “takes pride in helping our shoppers for this special food-focused holiday, whether it’s weeks or even minutes in advance” and that area workers who have to come in on Thanksgiving will get time-and-a-half pay. Camp argues that time-and-a-half will mean workers make $15 an hour, which “is what we should get paid regularly anyway.” WOOC has mounted strikes among fast food, retail, and grocery store workers to demand $15 an hour and the right to organize.
Whole Foods workers aren’t the only ones who will have to show up to work on Thursday. A growing number of big box retail stores, including Walmart, Macy’s, and Toys R Us, will open on Thanksgiving for the holiday shopping season, meaning millions of workers will have to go to their jobs and miss out on a meal with their loved ones. The stores claim employees are excited to work that day but some report being denied their requests to take it off. Many others may not be able to as American workers aren’t guaranteed paid vacation time. Other stores, by contrast, have refused to open and have preserved the holiday for their employees.
Workers have been pushing back on having to show up on Thanksgiving through online petitions, and they’ve also found support from consumers. In fact, the stores that open risk a shopper backlash for doing so and may not even get a sales bump. Most consumers say they won’t shop that day and there’s not much evidence that Thanksgiving hours will boost holiday sales.
Walmart has also been the site of recent strikes, with nine in the month of November. Workers have been demanding that all employees be paid at least $25,000 a year, have the option to work full time, and be free from retaliation if they go on strike. Activists are promising a massive mobilization on Black Friday similar to the one last year that drew 400 striking employees.