Get to work: Retail workers threaten walk-outs in response to Black Friday

Workers at retail stores such as Wal-Mart are planning a walk-out in protest of being required to work on Thanksgiving.  On one hand I can sympathize with the workers who, by and large, want to spend time with their families like everyone else.  Their claim is that people shouldn’t be kept from their families unnecessarily, especially in the name of profits.  Large corporations are already viewed as placing ‘profits before people’.  Well, sure they do.  It comes as a shock to many that businesses are in business to make money, they aren’t charities.

I’m not sure I support this call to protest.  For one thing, in this economy jobs are hard to come by.  Like myself, they are lucky to be working at all, let alone making demands of their employer.  I think this is the aspect I find most repugnant.  Some people have this idea that they are entitled to their desires.  Not all of them of course.  But they find it perfectly acceptable to demand their employer close shop and forgo their own fiscal priorities in capitulation to their own personal sensibilities.

Personally, if these retail workers walk-out or refuse to report to work, I hope they all lose their jobs.  Ready to step up to the plate will be plenty of new hopefuls who have been searching for work and may not be so willing to bite the hand that feeds them.

You see, when you are an employee, you don’t make the rules.  You’re not in charge, your employer is.  If they tell you to work, you work.  Or find a job where you get to make the rules — good luck with that.

I won’t be shopping at the obscene hours these stores use to tempt shoppers into their stores.  And I’m staying home because I don’t think they should be open precisely for the reasons the workers are protesting.  But I have that right as the consumer to protest what I consider unpalatable business practices.  I’d encourage other consumers to do the same, even though they won’t.  I have a voice employees don’t: my dollars.  This might sound contradictory, but I don’t think so.  I don’t have the same obligations and loyalty to retail stores that their employees do.

I have the moral right to refuse to shop in order to reduce the demand for retailers to open.  Employees however, have the moral obligation to follow the instructions of their employers.


  1. Reblogged this on tanishaking's Blog and commented:
    I can agree with you Mr. Barron. I also work in retail and I am obligated to work Black Friday.

    As for the employers, they should take this protest into consideration on how they handle crisis within their company. Walmart is very well known and has been a super store for a majority of the middle and poor class families.

    By ensuring the employees with some sort of comfortable standards when working holiday hours, we can strive to avoid incidents similar to this one. PR practioners deal with internal conflict as well as external. Making ourselves accessible to the people involved and showing concern may lessen the conflict. Promoting two way communication from top executive to the employees insted of a one way communication flow as well.

  2. I also work in retail and normally would be at work at 5:00 on Friday (creative surgery scheduling saved me this year). While I wouldn’t want to work Thanksgiving night, and would try to avoid being scheduled, if I was I’d show up and do my job.

    You’re exactly right, especially in this economy, it’s a pretty good thing to have a job and I’d be loath to risk what I have. You’re also right on in terms of sitting out the madness.

    People seem to have problems with the concept that the employer gets to decide these kinds of things. It’s inconvenient, but true.

    One hint though, If you are a good employee, and management values your contribution you have a much better chance to impact things like being scheduled for things like this.

  3. I agree with you, John, that it’s a good thing to stay home and not shop. I certainly won’t and haven’t for years. Where I disagree is that, if I think it’s a good thing for consumers to “boycott” (albeit not necessarily in an organized way) these stores and support these families being together for the holidays, I also think it’s a good thing for the employees to do so, if that is their desire.

    They just have to realize that there’s a chance they’d be fired if they choose to do this. On the other hand, Walmart might buckle and cut folk some slack, that remains to be seen. Nonetheless, I always support workers organizing and even protesting for better, more wholesome working conditions.

    Of course, I don’t go to Walmart 365 days a year, but that’s another issue…

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