K-Mart Tells Employees: Come To Work On Thanksgiving, Or Be Fired

It seems like every year more and more retailers try to outdo the rest by starting their Black Friday sales early. Not so long ago, it was Walmart opening at midnight on Thanksgiving evening to get the insanity of the biggest shopping day of the year rolling. Now, retailers are going even further, and pretending that Thanksgiving Day doesn’t exist, remaining open, and requiring employees to work on a day that used to be devoted to family, food, and football. The latest of the Black Friday craziness comes from K-Mart.

“Think Progress” reports that K-Mart will open at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, and remain open for 42 hours straight. The company says that it will attempt to fill positions with seasonal workers and volunteers. But some K-Mart workers say that is not what is happening. A year ago, the “Huffington Post” reported that K-Mart employees were being “strong-armed” into working on Thanksgiving, and it looks like things will be the same this year.

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Jillian Fisher, whose mother works for K-Mart, started a petition to ask K-Mart to not do the 42 hour marathon, or to at least give workers the option to stay home with their family if they chose to do so. As of this writing, that petition has 4,855 signatures out of a goal of 5,000. Fisher surveyed 56 K-Mart employees from over 13 states, and found that only three said that they had the option to ask for Thanksgiving off. One employee was told by the human resources department, according to “Think Progress”:

If you do not come to work on Thanksgiving, you will automatically be fired.

Another employee said:

Our manager stated at a staff meeting: ‘Everyone must work Thanksgiving and Black Friday. No time off.’

Still another employee said:

I didn’t volunteer to work on either of these days they just pretty much scheduled me regardless if I had plans or not on Thanksgiving.

“Think Progress” reports that K-Mart employees are far from alone. Twelve retail chains will be open this year on Thanksgiving Day. Those chains include Starbucks, Staples, Target, Macy’s, Toys R Us, J.C. Penney, Kohl’s, Sears, The Gap (and related stores Old Navy and Banana Republic), Sports Authority, Best Buy, Radio Shack, and of course, Walmart. However, some workers will get a break, as Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island have laws prohibiting big box stores, and large supermarkets from being open on Thanksgiving.

K-Mart is part of Sears. Sears’ CEO is a man named Edward Lampert. Lambert is a disciple of extreme libertarian guru Ayn Rand, and, thanks to implementing libertarian policies, pitting department against department, and worker against worker, he has almost single-handedly destroyed the company. Once one of the most successful retailers in the county, Sears lost $1 billion over the first half of 2014, and in September the company took a $400 million loan from a hedge fund owned by Lampert.

Some chains are not joining the madness and will still be closed on Thanksgiving.

Other chains seem to be aware that there may be a public backlash brewing against the practice of Thanksgiving Day shopping marathons. “Think Progress” lists 17 chains that have announced that they will remain closed for the holiday. Those chains are:

  • Costco
  • Nordstrom
  • Game Stop
  • Patagonia
  • TJ Maxx/Marshall’s
  • REI
  • Burlington
  • Dillard’s
  • American Girl
  • Designer Show Warehouse
  • Barnes and Noble
  • Sur la Table
  • BJ’s
  • Petco
  • Jo-Ann
  • Neiman Marcus
  • Bed, Bath and Beyond
  • Crate and Barrel

Consumers can influence future behavior of the retailers that choose to open on Thanksgiving by refusing to shop on the holiday. Stay at home, have a second helping of turkey, enjoy rooting against (or for) the Cowboys. Then get up the next morning and wade into the crowds. While retailers can certainly choose to close on Thanksgiving, as many will, that decision will be made easier for them if there are not enough shoppers to make opening worthwhile. Enjoy your day, and by staying home with your family, you may make it possible for others to do likewise in the future.

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