black-friday.jpgWhen I used to write about the retail sector many years ago there was one major truism — the only people who worked on Thanksgiving were those poor workers who had to help run the Macy’s parade.

It was just bad taste to sell stuff on a day when the whole nation was supposed to be giving thanks for things beyond the material.

Well, this Thanksgiving ushered in a whole new world thanks to retailers who felt you all wanted to shop before you even digested your turkey. One employee at Target tried to fight this by posting a web petition to stop the injustice of working on such an important day. Anthony Hardwick got lots of attention for his efforts but didn’t get very far in convincing Target to roll back its decision to open late on Thanksgiving day.

In his petition he wrote:

A full holiday with family is not just for the elite of this nation — all Americans should be able to break bread with loved ones and get a good night’s rest on Thanksgiving!

Hardwick’s petition called for 300,000 signatures, but as of this morning he only reached two-thirds of his goal. Maybe most of us just don’t care if people are forced to work on holidays. And come to think of it, why do we need any time off at all?

Target’s decision, along with many other retailers, to open earlier was only earlier by a few hours. Typically, retailers open at 5 a.m. on Black Friday, which always made me feel back for those workers who probably had to be there by 3 a.m. to prepare for the crazy shopping day.

Everyone seemed OK with having people work on the wee hours after the big day of thanks, and clearly shoppers with days off had no problem with heading to stores despite probably having family still at home.

Taking time off for holidays, and the whole 5-day, 40-hour week, wasn’t always the norm.

Our society came up with the five-day workweek in the 1920s, according to Robert Whaples, an economics professor with Wake Forest University, and he’s still scratching his head over why it’s persists to this day. In an article he wrote:

The five-day work week with an eight-hour workday came to be seen as the norm over a half a century ago and it is still seen as the norm today. This development caught a lot of attentive observers by surprise — for example, John Maynard Keynes in 1930 predicted that by 2030 a fifteen hour work week would be sufficient for all but the most extreme workaholics. The stabilization of the work week at forty hours continues to defy easy explanation.

In fact, it seems that the opposite is occurring. We’re working more…on holidays, nights, weekends.

Hardwick is sick and tired of it. He told the New York Times the fight wasn’t really about him:

“It’s about my co-workers, my team members and anyone else in retail.”

With about 14 million people working retail jobs you’d think his petition would have gotten more than 200,000 signatures. But hey, maybe those people were too busy working.

(The photo above is by Nathan Luna)

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