Do we have a right to take holidays off?


Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.

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292 Responses

  1. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Great post, Russ. If only because the floggers at Whole Food will likely be focused on you this week, allowing me to slip in and nab some gluten-free water.Report

  2. Avatar greginak says:

    Good post. I’m yet another liberal type who isn’t much bothered by people having to work on holidays when they could be buying and consuming instead. I’ve worked on holidays myself, although mostly at hospitals. It seems like this phenomenon is more about losing sight of the major problems workers face and getting drawn down a picky rabbit hole. Workers will always have to do things they don’t like and lower skilled workers will generally get more of that. Nothing is ever going to change that.

    As a liberal i sure wish i had a political grouping where people didn’t have all sorts of foibles and imperfections and things i disagree with. Darn libs.Report

  3. Avatar Maribou says:

    FWIW, the people who gripe about a lack of employment options other than Walmart generally are thinking about how many different retail employers there were before Walmart. Though honestly, based on watching Walmart move into two different cities, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for most of those people, since in my experience, there is a pretty big overlap between “shops at Walmart instead of their competitors” and “complains after the competitors fold that there is a lack of competitors”.

    I just didn’t like the “surprise! we’re going to be open on Thanksgiving now!” angle of things. “Surprise! We the corporation run you the employee’s life and we have enough of the power in this relationship that we are confident you will roll over and take it!” Which isn’t really a surprise…. but it just seems a little smug and nags at my socialist craw.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Maribou says:


      Was it a surprise? How and when were employees notified?Report

      • Avatar Lyle in reply to Kazzy says:

        Actually in many cities Wal-Mart super centers were open all of Thanksgiving day for a number of years. In the past they did not start the door buster specials until friday morning but just moved this up. (True where I live for at least 8 years, Wal-Mart is only closed on Christmas from 6 pm on the 24th to 6 am on the 26th) Of course we could go back to laws like the german retail union had where stores where opn 8-6 monday thru friday and till about 100 pm on saturday and closed all day sunday.Report

    • Avatar RTod in reply to Maribou says:

      Was it a surprise? The stories that I read in the beginning of November said that most of the big box stores stores being singled out on social media campaigns are entering their third year of being open on Thanksgiving. (I do not know if Walmart is one of those, or if this is its first but its competitors third.)Report

      • Avatar Russell Saunders in reply to RTod says:

        And of course, I posted my comment before reading the other replies.

        If this is not a new policy, then that mitigates almost all of my beefs with it.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to RTod says:

        The stories that I read in the beginning of November said that most of the big box stores stores being singled out on social media campaigns are entering their third year of being open on Thanksgiving.

        Yes, that sounds about right.Report

    • Do I think it’s an awesome move on Wal-mart’s part? No. Do I think it’s of a piece with a larger problem with its employee relations? Perhaps.

      But is there something innately wrong with making employees work on a holiday, or even changing store policy to require it? Not really.Report

    • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Maribou says:

      Here’s the problem with the “find an employer that lets you have thanksgiving off” model of employer employee relations:

      Four years ago, all of these stores were closed on thanksgiving day. Then, a few of them decided to open at midnight. Then on thanksgiving day.

      The proscribed course of action here is that employees who truly value their thanksgiving holiday should find a different employer. Some of them, in fact, did. Given an ultimatum of work turkey day or find a new job, they found a new job. Maybe a job that paid worse. Maybe they were unemployed for a bit before they found that new job at a different store. But thanksgiving was valuable to them, so they made the necessary sacrifices and found an employer that was closed on thanksgiving.

      Until next year, when that employer decided to be open thanksgiving day also. You say it shouldn’t be a surprise this year. Okay, but for some, it was a surprise last year and the year before. At what point is it okay for these people to complain?Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Alan Scott says:

        At what point is it okay for people to complain? I should think at any point. Have at it. I had a job once where I had to get up and be in at 4:30 am or be fired, and as I recall I complained non-stop as soon as I got home every afternoon.

        But what’s being proposed is that employers either not be allowed to be open or be punished for being open, which is a very different thing.

        And more to the point, what’s being largely proposed is that a certain kind of employer that we already don’t care for should be forced to stay closed, while others that we happen to enjoy should be allowed to stay open.

        It is not by accident, I think, that Walmart, K-Mart, Office Max*, and stores you generally only find in malls seem to make it onto Think Progess’s site, while Starbucks and other high end coffee stores, restaurants, movie theaters, bars, 24 Hour Fitnesses, Powells (for those in PDX), and other types of non-essential businesses that Think Progress staff and readers enjoy having open on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day are given a pass.

        All of which is to say, I am still not buying that this has more to do with the holidays being sacred than it does people enjoying piling on certain businesses they love to hate.

        *BTW, who the hell shops for Christmas gifts at Office Max?Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Alan Scott says:

        Let me be clear, Tod.

        I do not go to the think progress website. I have, in fact, purchased a Christmas gift at Office Max. I have frequented premium coffee shops perhaps two dozen times in my entire adult life. I don’t even know what a Powell’s is.

        I don’t like the fact that Walmart is open on thanksgiving because my significant other works at Walmart, and for the three years we’ve been dating he hasn’t been able to join my family for our traditional thanksgiving feast.

        I know that so much Walmart bashing is just a particular variety of liberal classism. But over and over in these threads, I’ve seen black Thursday sales being defended by people who wouldn’t dream of entering a Walmart on the holiday. People saying, in essence, “well that’s what you get for not going to college and getting a better job”. Isn’t that just an equally absurd conservative classism? We can have various groups of ordinary gentlemen arguing “walmart boo” and “walmart yay” because of which way supports their preferred politics, but do not forget that there are actually people whose lives are actually being affected in some small way by these issues.Report

      • @alan-scott I have no great love of Wal-mart, as I tried to make clear in the OP. I am genuinely sympathetic to your complaint, as I know having a loved one working on major holidays is a detriment to quality of life.

        The Better Half’s vocation requires that he work pretty much every weekend. Most people can travel on long holiday weekends, but it is rare that we get to. I often have to work holidays (though I grant that I am well-compensated in the long run for doing so), and have had to beg off numerous family occasions because I was on call and had to spend the better part of the day traveling to and from Boston and seeing patients while I was there.

        I agree with Tod that the Black Thanksgiving anger has taken hold because of larger gripes with Wal-mart, and I don’t mean to come across as trying to delegitimize those gripes wholesale. But I don’t think that requiring employees to work certain holidays is innately wrong.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Alan Scott says:

        life. I don’t even know what a Powell’s is.

        Not “a” Powell’s, but “the” Powell’s, the world’s most awesomest used bookstore ever. Nobody can be mocked for not knowing Powell’s, but our sympathy is with all who have never had the privilege of shopping there. If you’re ever in Portland, do plan for half a day there.

        threads, I’ve seen black Thursday sales being defended by people who wouldn’t dream of entering a Walmart on the holiday.

        There’s nothing wrong with defending activities in which one has no interest. I believe in legalization of marijuana and cocaine despite having no interest in them, just as I defend church attendance although I hope never to engage in it again in my life (perhaps just for a Christmas hymns service). I even defend the right to vote despite the evident irrationality of such behavior!Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Alan Scott says:

        “I have, in fact, purchased a Christmas gift at Office Max.”

        I’m sorry, but I have to ask… what was it? (I clearly have no idea what Office Max sells.)

        “I don’t like the fact that Walmart is open on thanksgiving because my significant other works at Walmart, and for the three years we’ve been dating he hasn’t been able to join my family for our traditional thanksgiving feast.”

        That absolutely sucks big time. That really is terrible. Thanksgiving is pretty important to me, so I am sorry to hear this.

        “But over and over in these threads, I’ve seen black Thursday sales being defended by people who wouldn’t dream of entering a Walmart on the holiday. People saying, in essence, “well that’s what you get for not going to college and getting a better job”. Isn’t that just an equally absurd conservative classism?”

        FTR, I don’t think it’s “what you get” for anything other than having a job; I don’t think it matters much your class or education level. Russell has missed more than his share of holidays, and he’s an Ivy League doctor and a business owner. I was an owner, and I’ve missed all kinds of holiday gatherings, and have even had to kiss my family goodbye as they went off on vacation without me. (And, once, end my vacation on the first day and fly back the night i had arrived, leaving my family to continue without me.)

        I think there are several issues converging here with this story, and I think it’s important to both keep them separate that we might deal with them better:

        1. The disparity between middle-income people (or upper income) and low-wage earners. I think this is a huge issue, and as I’ve said before, it is going to have to come to a head sooner or later. An ever-growing number of working people who cannot meet their basic needs without public assistance during a time of record corporate profits cannot be sustained. (Nor should it be allowed to.)

        2. The lack of mobility in the working classes. Were Russell to become disenchanted with his partners, he could find a way to move where he works pretty easily. If I decide I don’t like retirement, or figure out that we calculated wrong and we need me to be a larger earner again, I could find work pretty easily as well. A low-wage stock boy at Walmart, I believe, would have a far more difficult time finding a different place to work, regardless of his of his skills, smarts or drive. This, I would argue, has less to do with Russell or I being “better” than that stock boy, and more to do with how much more difficult mobility is on the low end of the wage scale.

        I’m have no idea why this is so — education? culture? opportunity? the sign you’re born under? some combination? — but it’s definitely a flaw in the system that should be addressed. People on the low end of the ladder that don’t want to work on Thanksgiving have a far harder time finding an employer that meets their desires; and obviously, they aren’t rewarded as much for their troubles. The whole “American Dream” becomes something of a lie if we cannot figure out a way to allow people on the low end to be as mobile (either upward or laterally) as people on the high end.

        3. The fact that people are forced to work when they don’t wish to. This, in a nutshell, is what I hear with the whole Walmart-Thanksgiving thing. I think going down this rabbit hole is troublesome for two reasons.

        The first is that, as I’ve said a bunch in this thread and in Ethan’s, people making this argument are losing site of the fact that pretty much everyone has to work when they don’t want to. It’s largely why we don’t do our jobs for free. A lot of times (such as the case with your significant other) that isn’t just an inconvenience, it’s truly heart-wrenching. But you can’t create a system where everybody gets to beg off work whenever they’d rather be doing something else.

        But it’s the second reason that makes this issue a rabbit hole: It forces us to lose focus on items 1 and 2. If the leaders of Walmart really are evil men trying to put the squeeze on the little guy (and I know that’s not *your* argument, Alan), than concentrating so much attention on this issue is playing into their hands.

        The real problem in my mind, in other words, has nothing to do with how Walmart schedules its employees. It has to do with the first to items above. Fix the third item on that list, and it won’t matter a bit. Fix the first two, and the third is suddenly not an issue.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Alan Scott says:

        @jm3z-aitch , I’m not saying you have no right to participate because you don’t shop at walmart. I’m saying your arguments a someone who doesn’t work or shop at Walmart but who champions their practices has no more weight than the arguments of someone who doesn’t work or shop at a Walmart but who criticizes them. That your defense of the abstract consumer isn’t any more morally grounded than Ethan’s arguments for the welfare of the abstract employee.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Alan Scott says:


        I don’t believe I said my argument carried more weight than Ethan’s for any reason having to do with who I am. And to be clear, I didn’t interpret you as saying I had no right to participate. I was just saying that I don’t think the point that people are defending something they wouldn’t personally do provides any logical purchase on an issue (any issue).Report

      • Avatar Barbara in reply to Alan Scott says:

        Alan, when I was young, all stores were closed on Sunday–how times have changed.Report

  4. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    The best way to avoid being subjected to the whims of your employer is to put yourself in a position where you have lots of employers to choose from. Something tells me that many of these workers have not been successful in doing that.Report

    • Well, I do think that’s easier said than done for a lot of people. In areas where there isn’t a lot of industry, or where the local industries have been shuttered for whatever reason, or where the schools have prepared them poorly, I can see having few options. The job market has stunk on ice for many people for the past few years. (I know I don’t need to tell you that.)


      1) If there are alternative employers a prospective employee has passed over because the work doesn’t suit him, that obviates a lot of his right to complain.

      2) If the job market favors employers, that’s not actually the employers’ fault.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Russell Saunders says:

        Perhaps I am projecting. I live in a big city with lots of employment choices for someone with a high school diploma. My anecdotal experience has been that many of my lower-paid fellow employees put themselves in positions where they have little or no flexibility.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Russell Saunders says:

        Sauk Centre’s unemployment rate seems to be just over 3%. That’s a rate at which jobs are available, and much of the unemployment is voluntary, in the sense of people having left one job in search of a better one.

        And as much as I hated my incredibly short stint in manufacturing, if this guy’s willing to take the lower pay of a Wal Mart over a manufacturing job, then he’s made his choice and I’m unsympathetic that he’s not satisfied with it.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      Next Employer: Your Local Trash Dump!
      You too can dig coke bottles out of the dump for money!
      (It’s a good living for that part of America, too. About 20K a year).Report

  5. Avatar LWA says:

    As I mentioned in Ehtan’s thread, it seems a bit ridiculous that we as a culture- through our movies, songs, stories- tell ourselves and each other that holidays are Special, Sacred, and Important.
    But only Special Sacred, and Important in some vaguely mysterious way, for each individual to determine for themselves.

    The entire concept of a holiday originates in religion- yet as a secular society we have stripped them of religious meaning, and retain only the formal aspects- which is why schools are closed, but only for “Winter Holiday” wink, wink.

    So the meaning of a holiday is left up for grabs. Are holidays just employee perks? Is there a social norm for how to observe them?

    Thanksgiving, Independence Day, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day are even more interesting, since they are the few truly secular holidays. How should we observe them? Should we observe them? If we don’t stop working , then what measures are we expected to take to observe them?

    This isn’t about rights, it is really a struggle for control of social norms of behavior.

    The message given by Wal Mart and corporate America, via advertising, is crystal clear: Holidays are meant to be celebrated by massive binges of shopping. The day is to be worked like any other, preferably without any special pay or hours. But if time off is desired, it should be spent shopping.

    And honestly, I don’t begrudge them this message- they exist, after all, fo no other purpose than to sell stuff.

    But what should our message be? What should be the American society’s posture towards Thanksgiving, Independence Day, Memorial Day, and Veteran’s Day?Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to LWA says:


      This is a really good point. One of the things that my family has done over the last 10 years is to transition some of the holidays from a specific date on the calendar to a to-be-determined time when we get together to celebrate the actual meaning of the holiday. With several doctors in the family and others with similarly demanding jobs it just makes the most sense.

      We celebrate Independence Day on July 3rd so everyone can sleep in the next morning. We do Thanksgiving on Friday so no one has to eat and dash to their in-laws house for Round 2. Christmas with my wife’s out-of-town family is the weekend before so everyone can wake up in their own beds on Christmas morning. It has worked out well for us and made me a lot less resentful of my employer.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        I proposed this to my own family with little result. Instead, everyone is driven mad to be at the house for a four hour stretch on the fourth Thursday of November because of Pilgrims. Or something. Even if the Saturday before is a far more convenient day for everyone to get together for eight hours.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Mike Dwyer says:


        My wife and I are the ones constantly pushing the holiday boundaries which gives us a bad wrap with some family members. I initially got resistance from some of them regarding Thanksgiving but now they love it. We can all relax and spend more time with each other this way.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        @mike-dwyer , I think even the transposed holiday is a luxury of the middle-class, though. Someone working at Walmart can’t get the Saturday before thanksgiving off either. Walmart automatically rejects any time-off requests between November 1st and January 2nd.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to LWA says:

      So the meaning of a holiday is left up for grabs.

      But what should our message be?

      Meanings are always up for grabs; i.e., contested. In fact that’s a truth that really comes from the liberal side of the intelligentsia, while conservatives are always (well, allow me a little latitude for rhetorical purposes there) trying to tell us that everything has a one true meaning.

      Maybe there shouldn’t be “a” message. Maybe the question about what “our message should be” is negated by the reality that meanings are always contested. Instead of looking for a unified meaning of “the community” we should recognize that the community is multitudinous and multi-faceted; it is not, cannot, and if any semblance of freedom of thought is to be maintained, ought not* be otherwise.
      *Is there any tyranny worse than tyranny over our thoughts and beliefs?

      Madison, Federalist 10: “There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction…the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests. … As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other; and the former will be objects to which the latter will attach themselves.”

      De Toqueville, Democracy in America: “I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America…. In America the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them. Not that he is in danger of an auto-da-f‚, but he is exposed to continued obloquy and persecution. His political career is closed forever, since he has offended the only authority that is able to open it. Every sort of compensation, even that of celebrity, is refused to him. Before making public his opinions he thought he had sympathizers; now it seems to him that he has none any more since he has revealed himself to everyone; then those who blame him criticize loudly and those who think as he does keep quiet and move away without courage. He yields at length, overcome by the daily effort which he has to make, and subsides into silence, as if he felt remorse for having spoken the truth.”

      George Orwell, 1984: “2+2=5”Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        “…it is really a struggle for control of social norms of behavior.”

        It struck me that that quote seems far more likely to come from the mouth of a conservative than the mouth of a liberal.

        Which isn’t a bd thing, per say. But it is probably worth exploring in a bit more depth.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        I hope LWA will correct me if I’m wrong, but I seem to remember him saying that he was conservative and has shifted to the liberal side (which is entirely legitimate, of course, and which I criticize in no way–in fact I find it pleasing as it belies the rather shallow claim that people necessarily become more conservative as they get older). But it has always struck me that his liberalism is wrapped around a vision of society that is in essence more in line with traditional conservatism (e.g., George Will style; not Newt Gingrich style).

        It’s unusual, but not necessarily incoherent. I’d describe it as a generally communitarian approach, which does have a distinct space in the liberal/progressive ideosphere. Communitarianism in general seems to me to have a powerful pull, as it’s also at the root of a lot of conservatism, and even fits comfortably within libertarianism, the primary differences between the variants being differing visions of what particular outcomes are good for the community, and the degree to which the community’s identity should be established authoritatively through political decisionmaking and how much should just develop informally through individual choice and adherence (including leaving community X to join community Y).Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Not only are meanings always up for grabs but they are constantly changing in many obvious and often subtle ways. The problem is less that big businesses are pushing for one vision of what a holiday is but more that people believe it that vision and then complain that the business vision was actually all about making money in the first place. It is for each of us to develop our own meanings. If you buy the Walmart vision, then don’t complain it is materialistic and all about shopping.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Yes, James nails it pretty well, that my version of liberalism is rooted in a conservative vision of culture.
        Which is why I couched my questions in terms of cultural norms, specifically aimed at the secular holidays like Independence Day.
        I really do get the idea of individual meaning, liberty of conscience and I do understand how suffocating and repressive a cultural norm can be.

        But the notion that we can sweep them away is, in my view, an impossibiity. Take a look around us, at the pervasiveness of certain norms of behavior, of cultural expectations and demands of how we SHOULD respond or behave to this, that, or the other.
        And even is we somehow could create a world in which all values are freely chosen, all communities voluntarily selected, where all meaning is purely individual- What would it look like, and how would it affect holidays?

        Why would such a society close schools on Dec. 25? What would July 4th mean? How would such a society create a sense of kinship and patriotism, a national identity?
        We are not all Christian, or Jewish, or Muslim- but aren’t we all Americans? Isn’t there some level of social norm that has value, that can be legitimately enforced?Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:


        Thank you. I’m glad I didn’t misrepresent you.

        I am in fact pretty communitarian, too, but only accept voluntary communities as legitimate, and distrust that the term “community” properly defines a group based on coercion. On this we obviously differ.

        We are not all Christian, or Jewish, or Muslim- but aren’t we all Americans? Isn’t there some level of social norm that has value, that can be legitimately enforced?

        Perhaps, but in my view the very fact that it would require authoritative enforcement militates against it, and places the burden of proof on any claim that norm X can legitimately be enforced. If people don’t do it voluntarily, and to the extent it must be reinforced, reinforce it through encouragement, moral suasion, and personal disapproval, then I’m dubious that it’s actually a social norm significant enough to that community to justify formal enforcement. A real social norm, one really held by a sufficient mass of the people to be a true social norm, doesn’t need formal enforcement; any rule needing formal enforcement seems by definition to have too few real adherents to be called a true social norm.

        And I’m far more worried about coerced expressions of solidarity than I am by the fact that some people might not honor my preferred norms in the way I’d prefer them to.Report

    • Avatar Will H. in reply to LWA says:

      Rename every holiday “Monsanto Day” and be done with it; sort of like what happened with the Bowl games; the “K Y Jelly Invitational” and such.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer in reply to LWA says:

      I just wrote a post about this and sent it to Tod.

      Here are my thoughts as a completely non-spiritual, non-pastoral left-liberal. I think a vast middle class was created by two factors.

      1. Government policies including universal healthcare and broad civil rights protections and other New Deal Measures.

      2. Industrialists figuring out how to make luxury goods and services available and affordable to the masses.

      Both are necessary. I don’t think you can have a middle class if most goods are considered luxury goods. The mass production and availability of things like soap, chocolate, tea, coffee, indoor plumbing and heating, electronic goods, etc are what created a vast middle class as much as universal healthcare in my mind.

      I am also not certain that there is an afterlife. So I don’t begrudge people for enjoying their time on earth (assuming it doesn’t hurt others) People should live with in their means but I don’t consider being overly thrifty to be a virtue.

      I once heard a woman on NPR’s Planet Money extoll ultra-thrift saying: You don’t have buy new clothes, go to restaurants, go to movies, concerts, buy books, buy furniture new, or anything new, etc. This is true but her ideas sounded like a very dull life to me.

      I admit that there is a problem with over-consumption and environmentalism but the problem is not solution is not everyone radically scaling back and becoming ascetic farmers.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to NewDealer says:


        To riff, not argue;

        I think there’s something to be said for simply not wanting much, just because if you don’t have many desires, you’ll find it easier to satisfy the few you have and live a satisfied life.

        But that’s something I admire and to some degree personally aspire to just because I find unfulfilled want an unpleasant experience, not something I think has any particular moral value. I do think we ought to enjoy life, and if eating out does give enjoyment, or going to the theater, etc., there’s no moral value in denying ourselves that enjoyment. That is, I agree with you on this issue, I believe.

        I think the trick in life is to find that point where we are able to take pleasure in these things when we’re able to experience them without feeling the displeasure of unfulfilled want when we’re not able to. From my way of thinking, that’s a pretty well balanced life.

        That may be a very hedonistic view of how to live life.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to NewDealer says:

        I think the American middle class as it’s pedestalized is largely a by-product of the second world war.Report

  6. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    Turns out the WH is just as bad an employer as Wal-Mart.

    Healthcare.giv Team Working Through Holiday to Meet DeadlineReport

    • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      I would consider government or a good deal of it an essential service but I’m a liberal like that even stuff like fixing the Healthcare website. Federal Courts are open on the Friday after Thanksgiving. My friends who work in the grant department of UCSF have been required to work on the day after Thanksgiving.

      I don’t know if I would consider Wal-Mart or any other retail place an essential service.Report

  7. Avatar Jaybird says:

    My first real job after the restaurant was a job as a contractor and I had 6, count’em, 6 whole paid days off. Half of them came in the one-and-a-half month period at the end of the year: Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day (the other three were the days that punctuate the summer… spring took forever). Of course, my job required that I work those days anyway… BUT! We got double time. Well, not exactly. We got an additional 8 hours’ pay on our paycheck that week. Some people were thrilled to get the additional pay. Some people were thrilled to take a different day off that week. Some people bargained and wheedled to take off the day itself.

    Now, why was I a contractor? Well, I wanted to be an employee but, apparently, there had recently been some laws passed mandating protection for employees.

    So companies in my town stopped hiring employees and started hiring contractors.

    There were some laws kicked around discussing the forcing of hiring “permatemps” as employees and my company started the process of laying people off for three months (take unemployment! We’ll buy you a playstation!) only to hire them at the end of the three months again.

    Soon after that, the outsourcing to foreign countries began in earnest.

    All that to say: if we pass a law saying that companies need to give employees X holidays a year, we’re going to see new and improved definitions of “employees” that will result in the bottom rung of the ladder being even worse off. And, before you say “well, pass even more laws”, please understand that I’ve seen that movie too.

    I don’t know what we, as a society, would need to do in order to make sure that everybody had X days off a year (preferably the same ones), but I suspect that it would involve homogeneity of culture.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

      “I don’t know what we, as a society, would need to do in order to make sure that everybody had X days off a year (preferably the same ones), but I suspect that it would involve homogeneity of culture.”

      Well, folks who have more than X days off could “share” their days off with those who have less by picking up their shifts. Think we’ll see that?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

        Well, folks who have more than X days off could “share” their days off with those who have less by picking up their shifts. Think we’ll see that?

        I don’t know how that would work. Within an organization? Well, I imagine, many of your co-workers were offered the same package that you were. If you’ve got 10 days’ vacation at the end of a year and someone else doesn’t, that would tend to mean that they used theirs and you didn’t use yours.

        And, in theory, I see this resulting in a lot more of the “Jaybird doesn’t have kids, have him do it” than the “we need to be equitable thing”.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        I was mostly joking. What I mean is that the folks who have good vacation policies… say 4 weeks of PTO a year… but who are dismayed at the lot of Walmart employees, those folks can go on into Walmart and tap a worker and say, “Take the day, buddy. I got this for you.” I doubt they’d actually do that.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

        To be perfectly honest, I don’t know that I could work a retail job walking in cold. It’s been a while.

        That said, someone who makes a multiple of minimum wage presumably adds more value than the job they’d not be doing because they jumped down to a minimum wage job for a day.Report

    • Avatar Creon Critic in reply to Jaybird says:

      If I recall correctly, every other OECD country aside from the US has state mandated paid holidays and/or paid annual leave.* Take any one of them as an example for how to craft a law. Offhand, various US states and municipalities have had (or still have) blue laws enforced on any variety of activities from hunting to appliance shopping. A blue law, prohibiting certain kinds of commerce on certain days, would shut the whole day-of Thanksgiving shopping thing down.

      * Here’s one source, No-vacation nation USA – a comparison of leave and holiday in OECD countries

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Creon Critic says:

        For what it’s worth, I, personally, saw the laws that prevented liquor stores from being open on Sunday as an irritant rather than as something good for society.

        I’m old enough to remember when pretty much everything was closed on Sunday (just like Chik-fil-A!) and wouldn’t want to go back to that, myself.Report

      • I guess one of the sub-questions on this topic is would not being able to shop on the day of Thanksgiving be an irritant?

        I don’t see why we shouldn’t say to retailers, these particular holidays are off limits. Especially given that up until relatively recently there were far more intrusive bans on what kind of commerce (or recreation) was permissible on every Sunday. As for the consuming public, they can shop on the non-holidays.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Creon Critic says:

        The county I grew up (Bergen County, NJ… not the Bible Belt!) still has really strict blue laws on Sunday. I hate them. I means I half as much time to run my NJ errands as my NY errands, since most of them are of the weekend variety. It also puts the county’s large Jewish population (including many store owners) in a hole as neither Saturday nor Sunday is an option — for consumers and businesses alike.

        As I understand it, the big defenders of the blue laws are two fold: small business owners, who can close for a day and remain on equal footing as the big box stores; residents of the more commercial towns. Which means I can’t buy a TV from someone who wants to sell me a TV from about 10PM on Saturday until about 10AM on Monday.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Creon Critic says:


        Would any businesses be exempted? How about grocers? Pharmacies? A number of people rely on Walmart and Target as their primary provide for both (I’m not so sure about Kmart… we don’t really have them by me).Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Creon Critic says:

        I don’t see why we shouldn’t say to retailers, these particular holidays are off limits.

        But who is “we”? Gajillions of people went shopping on Thanksgiving. Aren’t they “we”? Aren’t they voting with their feet and dollars that these days aren’t off limits? Aren’t those of us who stayed home voting with our feet that these days are off limits? Which of those groups is “we,” and if the answer is “both of them,” then are we sure that those of us who think the holidays are off limits have simply lost that election?

        How would making the election occur via the ballot box make the outcome any more legitimate than the current outcome? The answer can’t be that it would be the “right” outcome, or that “our side” has won.Report

      • @kazzy
        Were I emperor of the world, yes some pharmacies would be open. But I think the point is, and probably better made upthread by LWA, to put the burden of proof, as it were, on the business/sector/industry seeking to treat the holiday as a normal workday. Rather than putting the burden on the employee who wants to to observe the public holiday as it seems these retailers have done. I think the original post puts it in quite stark terms: “if working on Columbus Day is a deal-breaker, then we wish you well somewhere else.”. To me, it is pretty clear who has the power in the employee-employer relationship and those terms are less, “this is a negotiation” and more “this is an ultimatum” – and certainly on the ultimatum side when speaking of multi-billion dollar multinational companies.

        Also I think brought up on another thread, not sure by whom, but a point that bears repeating, there’s a difference between deciding to use a skeletal staff on the one hand and on the other hand making the day-of the focus of promotions and sales as to entice shoppers to stores.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Creon Critic says:

        The burden of proof should, ultimately, be on the people who want to make laws that further restrict freedoms. Perhaps a blue law is justified, but I think it fair to ask those proposing it make the affirmative case.Report

      • @creon-critic The reason, it seems to me, that Wal-mart amps things up on Thanksgiving is that it (and, more specifically, the day after) has become a gigantic day for retail sales over the past couple of decades. It is the last major holiday preceding the biggest gift-given occasion all year. It stands to reason that it would exploit Thanksgiving and pull out all the stops promoting it. It’s simply good business sense.

        And perhaps it’s easy for me to support keeping our business open on state holidays because I am quite confident that we treat our employees well in general.Report

      • @jm3z-aitch
        But who is “we”?

        The community acting via the state. That same we gets to select the holidays and select their meaning, level of importance, and methods of observance. To me, the state can legitimately say we’re having a National Day of X and that means Y.

        How would making the election occur via the ballot box make the outcome any more legitimate than the current outcome?

        This gets back to the employee-employer power dynamic. At the ballot box citizens are equal. In employee-employer relations, not so much. Observe the original post’s Columbus Day ultimatum, or the Pizza Hut manager being fired example. The citizenry is also notably unequal in consumer-producer relations. The consumer of a widget on Thanksgiving has more power than the shop-floor retail employee.

        I think part of the disagreement stems from this focus on who has more power than whom, and that fitting into a much larger dispute about the boundaries of social justice.Report

      • @jm3z-aitch
        I’m not sure if this is being even more specific or even more ephemeral than my “disputes about the boundaries of social justice”, but there’s also the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (emphasis mine, US signed but not ratified). It is the sort of thing that comes to my mind when raising “Do we have a right to…”questions.

        Article 7
        The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work which ensure, in particular:
        (a) Remuneration which provides all workers, as a minimum, with:
        (i) Fair wages and equal remuneration for work of equal value without distinction of any kind, in particular women being guaranteed conditions of work not inferior to those enjoyed by men, with equal pay for equal work;
        (ii) A decent living for themselves and their families in accordance with the provisions of the present Covenant;
        (b) Safe and healthy working conditions;
        (c) Equal opportunity for everyone to be promoted in his employment to an appropriate higher level, subject to no considerations other than those of seniority and competence;
        (d ) Rest, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay, as well as remuneration for public holidays


      • @kazzy
        I agree, to change the law the affirmative case would need to be made.

        laws that further restrict freedoms.

        Well, this gets tricky. Restrict or enhance freedom depends on how you view the wider dispute. Restrict freedoms of shoppers? Enhance freedoms of workers to enjoy “rest, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours”? Restrict the freedom of employers to mistreat workers? Enhance the freedom of workers to observe national holidays?Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Creon Critic says:

        The community acting via the state.

        Why not the community acting through interaction of its individual decisions? Is that also legitimate, or is it only legitimate when it acts through the state?

        That same we gets to select the holidays and select their meaning, level of importance, and methods of observance.

        But of course the community does not do that through the state. We have, as a community but not acting through the state, selected turkey and football as methods of observance. Why can we not, in the same non-state process, select shopping as one of our methods of observance?

        This gets back to the employee-employer power dynamic. At the ballot box citizens are equal. In employee-employer relations, not so much.

        But I protest that it’s not simply about employer/employee. It’s about retail/customers. The fact is that despite folks like you and me, there is massive demand for shopping on Thanksgiving. Were there not, employers would close their doors that day (would deny work that day to those who wanted to work!). Why doesn’t that demand, of karge numbers of your fellow citizens, count?

        The citizenry is also notably unequal in consumer-producer relations. The consumer of a widget on Thanksgiving has more power than the shop-floor retail employee.

        No, no individual consumer does. It’s the mass, the number if them that matters.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Creon Critic says:

        Sorry, Creon, I bungled the threading.Report

      • Avatar dhex in reply to Creon Critic says:

        “The community acting via the state.”

        i think if you phrased this “part of the community acting via the state” it’d be more accurate; the rest of the community is out shopping on thanksgiving.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Creon Critic says:


        “…Enhance freedoms of workers to enjoy “rest, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours”.”

        That’s the thing. Workers exchange “rest, leisure, and reasonable limitation of working hours” in exchange for work. That’s what work is. You are entitled to that only insofar as you take steps to secure it. You cannot demand that which you exchange it for (e.g., employment, wages) and then not actually offer up your end of the exchange. Well, I mean, you can… but you have no right or entitlement to that.Report

      • @jm3z-aitch
        Well, current campaign finance shenanigans and voter ID laws notwithstanding, everyone gets an equal say in the state route. The interactions of individual decisions are more likely to fall into the prisoners dilemma / race to the bottom scenario that Alan Scott describes below. Widespread shopping at the expense of the state promulgated value of observing a holiday. The individual actors route can quite easily crush the competing public value enunciated by the state.

        But of course the community does not do that [methods of observance] through the state

        I guess I also had in mind something that shouldn’t be described as a holiday necessarily, more national day of mourning, flags at half mast, or national day of prayer situations. You’re right, the football and turkey emerge outside the state’s reach. But it is the state that, at least, aids the creation of the space for observance. Also, through its numerous expressive capacities, the state helps guide observance in approved or disapproved directions: Thanksgiving in environments the state controls like military bases, the President’s Thanksgiving Day Message, how Thanksgiving is recognized in public schools. Those turkey drawings that elementary school children make using their hands. There’s at least the specter of the state threaded through the holidays. If state action can have a chilling effect, it certainly can also have a catalyzing effect – both community and state acting in concert to develop and encourage (or discourage) different methods of observance.

        Why can we not, in the same non-state process, select shopping as one of our methods of observance?

        Isn’t that, shopping as a method of observing Thanksgiving, part of the substance of the present dispute? ThinkProgress on the one side saying, “shame on you big box stores that’re opening on Thanksgiving”, on the other side Yglesias and others saying “no big deal, everyone has to work some days they’d rather not, this isn’t a social justice issue”. In the first instance this is in the non-state process, with protesters outside some stores and CEOs of other companies saying we’re closing and recognizing our employees’ time with their families.

        Why doesn’t that demand, of [l]arge numbers of your fellow citizens, count?

        Well, demand stoked by retailers offering additional discounts for shopping on the day of. Ultimately that is what will count, via public opinion and also via the state, laws, and state directed standard setting. Both will count.

        No, no individual consumer does. It’s the mass, the number if them that matters.

        Yes. I’d note though, that again, considered as voters versus considered as consumers-producers there’s a power differential in the consumer-producer domain that is not present in the voter domain.Report

      • @kazzy
        I’d just referenced the ICESCR to @jm3z-aitch , so I was thinking in the larger context of the employer-employee relationship rest, leisure, reasonable working hours, etc. were embedded.Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to Creon Critic says:

        the rest of the community is out shopping on thanksgiving.

        I think that’s the long and the short of it.
        What’s more, I would wager, were you to inspect every shopping cart, greater than 95% of the items purchased were things wholly unnecessary, things that could well have been purchased at any other time.
        It’s all about consumer culture.
        Sure, “dupe the sap” is what commerce is all about; no blame there.
        But when the values of the people-at-large have evolved to the point where aversion to substantiveness has grown to symbolic substitution of insubstantiveness (because it’s so much more convenient that insubstantiveness in its own right) . . . well, I’d say there are certain expectations which are not wholly unfounded.
        Chicken A doesn’t really need so much of a map to Roost B. It will find its way.Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to Creon Critic says:

        That was a Doomsday statement, btw . . .Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Creon Critic says:


        I agree wholeheartedly that objections are part of the non-state process. And in that realm I have no objection to them; in fact I support and encourage them and as someone who is adamant about not shopping on either Thanksgiving or Black Friday, am basically on their side, even though I think outrage at Wal Mart and other retailers is misplaced, the wrong target.

        But if the protests demand government action, they’re not staying to the non-state process. And there I refuse to go along. Not every social outcome I dislike demands that the authorities step in to make things go my way.

        I get that some people see this as an issue of that importance, but I’m unpersuaded. My wife has been bitching about these threads because she’s worked many holidays in her life and wonders what’s so special about Wal Mart and Thanksgiving. She worked at an amusement park, which meant no summer vacation trip with the family and don’t even bother asking for Memorial Day, 4th of July, or Labor Day off. Disneyworld is open 365 days a year, which means they’re open on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Movie theaters have been open on Christmas for years, requiring people to work on Christmas, which for many of us is more sacred than Thanksgiving. My mom worked in a factory, then at a fabric store, both of which were open on Easter (my mom is very religious). I’ve worked in Yellowstone National Park, where holidays don’t really exist for employees because other people plan their trips around those days. My sister works at a ski resort, which is open both Thanksgiving (if there’s sufficient snow, but I know that she takes a trip home each fall and has to be back before Thanksgiving) and Christmas.

        So why the outrage now? It’s a bit late to roll all these others into it to say “see how big the problem is” because nobody ever cared about those jobs and made a stink over them. I just don’t buy it. It strikes me as driven by our hatred of all things Wal Mart and by the fact that this particular example is new, rather than by a principled stance that was never expressed before.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Creon Critic says:

        @jm3z-aitch, I think that Wal Mart gets signaled out for scorn because its reasons for being open on holidays are pure mercurial and its not really a place of entertainment and recreation like the national parks, amusement parks or movie theaters. Its poor reputation among liberals with worker’s rights and pay doesn’t help.

        Blue laws used to dictate that places of commercial recreation were closed on Sundays and national holidays in addition to the stores and other places of commercial business. I’m not really sure what I think about blue laws. There are many arguments for and against them. On the pro-side, the guarantee that most people get days of relaxation even if a bit forced. On the negative side, they might not be economically viable in our globalized world. It is always a work day somewhere and people seem less willing to spend to their time off just enjoying the day with friends and family than they did in the past.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Creon Critic says:

        @jm3z-aitch , isn’t the novelty enough reason to complain? Your wife had to work some holidays she’d rather have off. That makes her exactly zero different from almost every single person on both sides of this debate.

        But what’s happening here is that people who used to have a holiday off don’t any more, for fairly stupid reasons. They are angry about it, their friends and family are angry about it, and (this being the age of the internet) random strangers are angry about it. That some of the random strangers are knee-jerk walmart critics isn’t any reason to wish the employees in question a miserable time.Report

      • @jm3z-aitch
        My short answer is, is it ever the wrong time to get on the right side? It doesn’t matter when you get an ally, you take your political allies where you can.

        More seriously, I think this particular argument is a vehicle for a larger disputes beyond the way one set of retailers treat their workers. Disputes about employee leave have been in the news earlier this year in the NYC area as the NYC Council overturned Mayor Bloomberg’s veto of paid sick leave legislation. This holiday work issue is of a piece with those employee-employer issues that have a longstanding history in the left/left of center.

        So it isn’t that there’s been lack of concern for amusement park workers, movie theater workers, etc. I strongly disagree with the “nobody ever cared about…” line. It is that their answer may be in government action that gets at the issue another way, maybe requiring that employers don’t threaten the jobs of those who decline to work the day-of, days off in lieu of the day-of the public holiday, or more broadly changing the picture of American paid leave/holidays to be more in line with other developed countries. I haven’t done so, but I feel like if I looked up the issue at SEIU or AFL-CIO’s websites, they’d have longstanding views on these types of issues. I think there’s a 1936 holiday labor convention,* labor can’t said to be coming afresh to this issue.

        * here, C052 – Holidays with Pay Convention, 1936

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Creon Critic says:

        I think that Wal Mart gets signaled out for scorn because its reasons for being open on holidays are pure mercurial and its not really a place of entertainment and recreation like the national parks, amusement parks or movie theaters

        Why does recreation get a pass? Places of entertainment are only open on those days to make money, just like Wal Mart. They’re not doing it out of some sense of civic duty.

        @ Alan Scott,
        isn’t the novelty enough reason to complain?

        No. That’s a position of reactionary conservatism.

        My short answer is, is it ever the wrong time to get on the right side?

        Oh, the timing can be pretty damn suspicious. And that’s assuming it’s the right side, a claim of which I remain unpersuaded.

        So it isn’t that there’s been lack of concern for amusement park workers, movie theater workers, etc. I strongly disagree with the “nobody ever cared about…” line.

        Oh, let’s be serious. None of you protesting this issue brought them up.. I brought them up! I don’t buy that there’s been great concern when absolutely none of you have mentioned them. If you want me to believe that people have historically been caring about this issue that I’ve never heard anyone complain about before (except, maybe, movie theaters on Christmas), then you’re going to have to provide some evidence. Where’s the litany of protests against DisneyWorld for being open on Thanksgiving? Otherwise I’m not buying it.Report

      • @jm3z-aitch
        Here’s your claim “nobody ever cared about those jobs and made a stink over them”

        My first sentence at 4:40pm was about the broader issue, “every other OECD country aside from the US has state mandated paid holidays and/or paid annual leave”.

        Issues intersecting with this one were the subject of some public discussion earlier this year:

        – America is the only rich country that doesn’t guarantee paid vacation or holidays, Posted by Ezra Klein on May 27, 2013, Washington Post
        – U.S. is only ‘advanced economy’ that does not require paid vacation, May 28, 2013 | By Ricardo Lopez, LA Times
        – The US Is Last in Paid Vacation and Holidays, by Martin Hart-Landsberg, Sociological Images
        – Report: United States Is the ‘No-Vacation Nation’, 05/28/2013 Kenneth Quinnell, AFL-CIO Now

        Why shouldn’t activists use this extended Thanksgiving Day opening hours as an exemplar of the US deficiency on this score? Why shouldn’t activists focus on the behavior of the world’s largest retailer? Would ThinkProgress’ message have more traction if focused on a small coffee shop in Portland that employs, lets say, 50 people? Or would ThinkProgress’ message get more attention when focusing on Wal-Mart,

        The company is the world’s third largest public corporation, according to the Fortune Global 500 list. The company employs nearly 2 million people and is the biggest private employer worldwide.


      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Creon Critic says:

        @jm3z-aitch, under classic blue laws places of recreation did not get a pass. The people who instituted the first blue laws wanted them closed on Sundays and holidays to. In 19th century New York City, there were tremendous fights over whether the Metropolitan Museum of Art should be open on Sunday because it was the only day that most people could see it. The Metropolitan Museum is a private institution run by particularly devote Protestants at the time, this is weird from current prospectives, and they wanted their museum closed on Sunday and holidays. The same drama repeated in other states.

        Eventually an understanding developed that the American Sunday was not the Christian Sunday and that places of recreation should be open on Sundays and holidays because they are necessary for relaxation in a way that shopping isn’t.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Creon Critic says:

        No, Creon, that doesn’t cover it. Those countries’ mandated holidays generally come in summer. They don’t protect people from working holidays. Ski resorts in Europe are, I’m guessing, open on Christmas.

        Having a mandated 4 weeks holiday in the U.S. would not thereby ensure that people weren’t working at Disneyland on Thanksgiving and Christmas. And I’ve yet to see anyone fretting about those folks as opposed to the folks at the Wal Mart down the road from Disneyworld (just 10 minutes away, if folks on the internet are to be believed).Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Creon Critic says:


        You can guess what I think of blue laws. But I’ll go along with them. I propose that Sunday be the official secular sabbath, that no work of any kind that is absolutely non-essential be performed that day. The NFL must shift all its games to another day; no movies; no restaurants can be open, gas stations, drug stores, etc. must all remain closed from midnight to midnight. Hospitals will be required to have minimal staffing, and emergency rooms must send home anyone who does not have a true emergency (they can come back at 12:01 a.m. Monday).

        Saturday, however, all businesses shall be required to be open, so that nobody gets caught short of necessities on the sabbath.

        (Yes, I know exactly who I’m talking to…that’s why I’m phrasing everything this way.)Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Creon Critic says:

        @jm3z-aitch, I really have no problem with this proposal as long as Jewish employees can take Saturday off with no problem and Muslims get to pray on Friday with no problem. Other religions also get to do what they want on their holy days with no problems.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Creon Critic says:

        Only if it doesn’t inconvenience your employer. I anticipate that the Saturday rush at the grocery store will mean some employers are inconvenienced by your religious beliefs. Too bad, people have a duty to society to be stocking apples on Saturday.Report

      • @jm3z-aitch
        Look at the chart on page 2/3, or here’s a non-pdf blog post on the paper,

        The chart distinguishes between paid holidays and paid vacation.

        I’d also point your attention to the further disaggregation of the data (full time, part time, hourly wage, and establishment size) in the table further along in Sociological Images post (or on page 4/5 of the pdf).

        The left is all about precisely this kind of fretting! This is standard liberal/progressive/left of center fretting! Marina Abramovi? will do performance art based on this fretting! Observe as @kazzy and @russell-saunders have their New Yorker subscriptions revoked, are run out of Whole Foods, and never again welcome at Brooklyn Eutace Tilley’s microbrew tastings. All for failing to participate in the fret-fest.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Creon Critic says:


        That’s nice aggregate data, but that doesn’t change the fact that nobody is complaining about movie theaters and Disneyland. We are shown that report and complaints about Wal Mart and Target. We aren’t shown that report and complaints about Wal Mart, Target, MJR Theaters and Walt Disney Corp.

        For example, here is Think Progress declaiming that Wal Mart is the latest company to ruin Thanksgiving. Give them credit for pointing out Wal Mart didn’t begin this, but there’s no reference of movie theaters, Disneyland, etc. From them, an unimpeachably liberal source, one would get the impression that holiday work is all about retail.

        Nobody has ever started long blog arguments about movie theaters, Disneyworld and ski resorts being open on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Nobody has ever written tirades about how Hollywood and Mickey Mouse are destroying Thanksgiving. Nobody has ever tried to start national protests outside every movie theater and amusement park open on the holidays. It. Just. Hasn’t. Happened.

        Don’t tell me people have been concerned about those businesses unless you can show me people complaining about those businesses by name, just as they complain about Wal Mart and Target by name, or at least by sector, as they complain about the retail sector.

        If anyone actually cared about those businesses and their employees they’d be making noise about them, too. But nobody has, and nobody does. Nobody made a noise about holiday work until retail started doing it, and since then all anybody has focused on is retail, without any talk about theaters, Disneyland, etc. Instead we find liberals–real live liberals right here on this page, even–excusing them. Because while one person’s lust for bargains apparently doesn’t justify destroying workers’ Thanksgiving, another person’s lust for entertainment apparently does justify destroying workers’ Thanksgiving. Not that I’m saying you agree with that logic, but there are more voices here defending Thanksgiving labor for employees in the entertainment and recreation industries than there are critiquing them.

        So I don’t think the evidence is there to show that many people are actually concerned about employees having to work in non-essential jobs on Thanksgiving. Rather, I think, many people are concerned about employees having to work at jobs we’re not going to patronize on Thanksgiving. And that’s a much less principled position. Your position may be more principled, but your fellow liberals mostly aren’t going along.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Creon Critic says:

        I know that the favorite knock on liberals is that we’re economic ignorant elitists, but you’re missing the actual and sensible logic here.

        Of course places that offer entertainment (movies, ski resorts, amusement parks, etc) are open on holidays — more people than usual have time to patronize them. Likewise transportation companies (busiest time of the year for airports.) But what’s the point of a shopping season starting on day 1 of a 4-day weekend instead of day 2, when it’s a month long anyway? Is more stuff really going to be sold between 11/28 and 12/25 than if it started on 11/29? No.

        What happened is that some fishhole decided to jump the gun (the hell with any of his employees that wanted to spend Thanksgiving with their families) and then the competitors thought they had to match the initial jerk (the hell with any of their employees that wanted to spend Thanksgiving with their families), and now nobody’s any better off and working Thanksgiving is the new standard (the hell with anybody that works in retail and wanted to spend Thanksgiving with their families). It’s lemming-like behavior except that it instead of jumping it’s throwing other lemmings off the cliff. Or it’s mutually assured destruction, or a prisoner’s dilemma. Pick your favorite metaphor.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Creon Critic says:


        Thank you for demonstrating my point in spades.

        It’s hard for me to express just how grateful I am that our society contains people who are qualified to determine a moral standard by which to judge when employee’s right to share Thanksgiving with their families can be overridden for others’ convenience and when it can’t, because lord knows I don’t think I’m remotely qualified to make such a determination.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Creon Critic says:

        I know you’re unwilling to judge anything that purports to have profit as its motive, but I don’t believe that you can’t see the difference between something that really does gain an advantage and something that doesn’t. Increasing profits by everyone’s starting their sales a day early is like improving democracy by counting everyone’s vote twice.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Creon Critic says:

        I know you’re unwilling to judge anything that purports to have profit as its motive,

        I have this sinking feeling that you think that was clever. Or even true.

        but I don’t believe that you can’t see the difference between something that really does gain an advantage and something that doesn’t.

        I don’t see that as a relevant standard for legislation. For disapprobation, sure, but I haven’t shied away from mocking Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping.

        Increasing profits by everyone’s starting their sales a day early is like improving democracy by counting everyone’s vote twice.

        Except that there are reports it has marginally improved sales. Not doubled them, but evidently enough to make it worthwhile. I think that’s a pity, but if true (and I think it’s too early to rely confidently on the reports, to be sure), then your position is blown up. So I have to ask, is that your true rejection? If it’s shown to increase corporate profits, will you reverse yourself and support Thanksgiving shopping? I’d find that very weird on your part, so I suspect “doesn’t increase profits” isn’t your true rejection at all.Report

      • James, it’s entirely possible that (a) sales went up, (b) they collectively made less money than they would have if they’d all been closed, and (c) they will all individually have to do the same thing next year to avoid making even less money.

        On the other hand, there is an argument to be made that customers are actually convenienced by having it open both days. They may not get as much time with their families, but holidays are a fluid time and so mothers and adult daughters or fathers and adult sons can go shopping together before one of them has to leave on Friday, or if one of them has to work that Friday.

        So there’s that.

        I am still inclined to look upon the whole thing unfavorably and probably, though not necessarily, counterproductive. (Excluding grocery stores, thank you for being open Martin’s!)Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Creon Critic says:


        Indeed, it is possible. It’s also possible that Thanksgiving sales cut deeply into Black Friday sales, but with a net increase overall for post-Thanksgiving sales. The data will ultimately come out.

        Here’s an early report. It says:

        The National Retail Federation pegged the number of unique shoppers Thursday through Sunday at more than 141 million, up from 139 million last year. …
        Average spending per shopper, however, fell to $407.02 from $423.55 last year

        Doing the math, that’s less spending than last year. But A) just as I said above, I’ll trust later number more; B) if the numbers are correct it’s hard to say whether that decline is due to Thanksgiving sales or some other factor.

        But if they think it’s due to Thanksgiving sales, I’d bet some are willing to try ending Thanksgiving sales. I know it’s popular to think there’s a prisoner’s dilemma here, but we’re not going to see anyone here formally demonstrate that because it’s just a guess. It assumes no retailer can unilaterally improve its position by shifting to Thanksgiving closure (cooperation) and that Thanksgiving sales (defection) necessarily result in all of them being worse off. It’s not theoretically impossible, by any means, but none of them can definitively demonstrate it, and yet that doesn’t stop them from confidently asserting it. (If it’s true, what we’ll actually see is the retailers lobbying for Thanksgiving closure laws, just as we see car dealers in some communities lobbying for Sunday car sales bans.)Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Creon Critic says:


        The complaints have been made privately (at least in my family, perhaps not in your family) for years. What I think has happened with these new practices from many of America’s largest employers is that a complaint that has been kept more quiet and private, and this bottled up, has spilled into public, shared displeasure.

        But it is a complicated displeasure, as certainly people have come to like getting coffee and going to the movies on holidays. My solution, if we decided we wanted one coordinated through law to offset the advance of preferences that can’t be controlled otherwise, would be to figure out a way to disallow employers from making working on certain designated days a requirement for obtaining or retaining employment (obviously there would likely be industries and jobs exempted- this is another option I want on the table, even if I’m finally not a proponent, while I *think* it’s something that would run afoul of non-rent-seeking as you would like to apply it). This would mean that only people who really want to be working on those days would have to (probably there would be more seasonal employment), and they would be there by virtue of there being a prevailing wage that gets people on the clock that isn’t leveraged by a threat to discontinue employment in general for anyone who won’t agree to show.

        I fully acknowledge that there may be practical problems that will render such a scheme impossible to implement at acceptable cost, and, as I say, I’m not necessarily even a proponent myself. One tradeoff that probably would have to be acceptable, for example, would be for hours to be cut around holidays for those who don’t want to work on the holiday, to allow for training of people brought in for the protected days, and that seems probably too inefficient to make it work to me. But I think the issue really is requiring work on these days as a condition for employment through the rest of the year, and I’d like considering such approaches to be something that at least is on the table, entirely understanding that folks like you will be entirely justified in being strongly opposed. For myself, though, I think it’s appropriate for the society to at least think about ways that it might want to raise the cost of employing people on certain days acknowledged as special days in recognition of a cultural tradition in which people have been able to take time to celebrate or gather, if market forces seem to be impinging on the viability of that tradition. Within that consideration, obviously opposition is completely legitimate. I’d like for people not to oppose the consideration, though, but I understand that people are no obligation to grant me that wish.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Creon Critic says:


        I’m stopping at disapprobation myself. As to sales being up a few percent, that’s year over year, so who knows what caused it? As likely the internet sales tax making local shopping more attractive as anything else.

        And if you have to accuse me of something, I’d prefer ignorance to dishonesty. Or you could just knock it off. (Yes, I understand having to do something inconvenient to help the company. I’ve done that, many times over, and often willingly. But I will never stop resenting “Do this, even though it inconveniences you, even though it’s of no value to anyone, because I said so.” Why is that hard to understand?)Report

      • Avatar Johanna in reply to Creon Critic says:


        If you’re stopping at disapprobation, fine.

        I’m happy to accuse you of ignorance. If you honestly think I’ll never critique any orofit-making activitu then your ignorance is boundless and your reading skills non-existent.

        Keep in mind this disvusdion here started with Ethan treating holiday work as something of a social justice issue. Then it was agreed that there are certain necessary jobs. Now you’ve helped carve out a third category, jobs thst aren’t necessary but where required holiday employment isn’t a social justice issue because…our right to entertainment trumps the social injustice of people not getting to be with their families. That logic us risible, and your view of how financially profitable one v. the other us doesn’t save ut, because then you are the one protecting profit naking activities from criticism.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Creon Critic says:

        Damn, that was me, not Johanna.

        But I want to reiterate the point about the third category, non-essential jobs where it’s ok to force people to work holidays and not be with their families.If the outrage is about people having to work instead of being with their families on important holidays, it’s reasonable to say “but some things are so essential that it’s ok to require that sacrifice; police, firemen, hospital staff.” But it’s not reasonable to say “but some things are not essential but it’s still ok to require that sacrifice because we want to be entertained.”

        If it’s a social justice issue in any way, entertainment doesn’t justify the denial of social justice. If entertainment justifies making people work on holidays, then it’s not a social justice issue and the grounds for distinguishing between Disneyworld and Target are pretty slim, and the basis for anything approaching outrage, as opposed to mild disapproval, slimmer yet.

        For me, I find it amusing to see liberals hollering about social injustice, that our right to shop on Thanksgiving does not trump the Target worker’s right to be home with their family on that important day, then sputtering that their right to see a movie trumps the movie theater worker’s right to be home with their family that day (Creon Critic excepted, and perhaps Leeesq). It just doesn’t compute in any way that I can see.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Creon Critic says:


        I do have one more thing to say to you, in response to:
        Or you could just knock it off

        You said “I know you’re unwilling to judge anything that purports to have profit as its motive,” and in another thread recently you twisted the words several of us used–something along the lines of “people who’s productivity is low”–to “dregs.”

        That knocking it off business? It’s not a one-way street, eh?Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Creon Critic says:

        @jm3z-aitch , Ethan calls it a social justice issue when he can’t find a parking space. Do not pretend that all of the people who disagree with you are fuzzy-heads. It is not an issue of grave moral injustice that people don’t get to spend time with their families on the holiday. It’s just a shitty situation.

        But aren’t we allowed to call out shitty situations, and look for solutions, even when there’s no grave moral injustice that we’re fighting?

        No, instead we’re accused of being selfish, amoral jerks who want to ruin other peoples lives in our quest to destroy only those bits of commercial culture that we don’t like.

        Because I didn’t append “oh, and fish Disney World and Starbucks too” to my posts, I clearly don’t care about the people that work there. I don’t want them to enjoy their holidays.

        So let me be clear: I want theme parks to be closed on Thanksgiving. I want movie theaters to be closed on Thanksgiving. I want coffee shops to be closed on Thanksgiving. I want used book stores to be closed on Thanksgiving. To be perfectly honest, I assumed that those places were closed on Thanksgiving.

        I do not want any of those things enough to think there should be a law requiring them to be closed, and I don’t think there should be a law requiring department stores to be closed. But I think there are solutions–cultural, political, and economical, that fall short of that extreme. And I’d like to see those solutions explored in a thoughtful, robust forum like the one here at Ordinary Times.

        Instead, I’m accused of hollering, sputtering, and arguing in bad faith.Report

      • Alan,

        I hear you, and I respect your principled and non-extreme position.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Creon Critic says:

        Rejoining very late here, but I want to echo Alan Scott’s point (and thus retroactively back into to some of Hanley’s grudging respect) that the “social justice” claims in this discussion have been vastly overrepresented by those opposing them. I agree exactly with Alan: this is an issue insomuch as it’s a drag for workers – no more, no less. It’s one aim in the ongoing struggle to set labor parameters in this country, alongside many others that working people seek to achieve (some of which have strong social justice components to them, some less so). I don’t even see where Ethan has asserted that this is a social-justice issue on its own. Rather, his main point is that it’s just another manifestation of the lack of bargaining power that (esp.) low-skill and service-sector workers have in this economy. (He thinks it;s a strategically important one for labor activists to make use of; folks like Russell disagree; I guess I’m in the middle – I think it’s primary importance is just whatever its own substantive importance to workers actually is, though if it is important to them, then I think it can potentially be one among many ways to spur workers to more actively advocate for their interests, though if not, the importance is still mainly just whatever it is to them on the merits).

        Moreover, I don;t even think I see where the Think Progress pieces that started the discussion made claims about this as a social justice issue. They were basically saying what Alan said: Look, for a lot of workers in industries where they’re not used to having to work on this holiday (though perhaps very used to having to work the day after?), these changes are a real drag – just another example of the deterioration of their power over the terms of their employment. Where did the term “social justice” get introduced into the discussion, then? By my reckoning, it was introduced by Matt Yglesias himself, more or less in straw-man fashion. He said that this was not a “first-order” social-justice issue, which, as far as I can tell, none of those raising the issue said that it was. And since then, liberals have been being mercilessly mocked at this website for saying that it was one. That’s pathetic.

        One other point, on this question of “Where was your outrage when people had to miss Christmas in order to sell movie tickets?”. Apart from, with Creon Critic, rejecting the basic premise of the question (as, while any given person, such as James or his wife, can be less moved by concern whose loud expression started with these recent practices, in general it’s not actually invalidating to have reached a level of concern with some escalating process you had previously tolerated at some particular point, at which point you then become motivated to take action or make noise about it. That’s a basic progression of activism; to claim it is invalidating is to claim that most activism will be invalid.): there is a structural reason why these changes justify newly active resistance to expectations to work on holidays, and it goes back to exactly the justification that is offered for the requirements, namely that if you’ve chosen to work in an industry that has that expectation, then you’ve chosen to agree to meet the expectation.

        That justification, however, IMO works as long as those choices don’t appear to be quickly withering. The strength of a justification for a situation where people who hold a job at a movie theater are expected to work on Thanksgiving or Christmas because people (who don’t have to work there) vote with their feet to have it open that makes reference to the free choice of people to hold that job as against other jobs where working on those days will not be required is going to be proportional to the amount of choice that people have among jobs that do and don’t require such work. It’s a stronger justification if more other places don’t require such work, in other words. As such, significant changes in the situation outside of movie theaters (or other places traditionally open on holidays) will significantly change people’s attitude about the overall set of justifications for these requirements to work. There are conceivably people, according to the logic of the justification, who, for the same money, may have chosen to work at Wal-Mart despite preferring the working experience at AMC, because they could reliably have Thanksgiving off. The justification for the requirement to work on Thanksgiving at the movie theater rested (in part) on the existence of the option to work at Wal-Mart, where that requirement could be escaped.

        In that situation, it’s entirely logical that a change in the situation at Wal-Mart would bring about protests of a situation that had perviously been accepted when it applied only to the movie theater (and other businesses that traditionally operated on holidays). The person who would rather work at the movie theater than Wal-Mart all other things being equal, but who very highly values the ability to reliably have off on Thanksgiving, has seen the very options that justified to him not complaining about the situation at the movie theater evaporate. To commence loudly complaining about the overall situation then is only natural according to the logic of the justification all along! Also, even limiting the complaint to the change at Wal-Mart might be justified, as the person may have accepted cultural traditions as the reason to accept having to work at the place he prefers least (or second most, or less) in order to preserve the top priority of having certain holidays fully available. He had understood the movie theater being open on Thanksgiving as a cultural reality, and, despite wanting to be available to work there something like 362 days a year, understood and accepted that his preference on those other three days as barriers to his choosing that work. He never perceived the same cultural tradition about Wal-Mart; hence, when Wal-Mart changes, it’s Wal-Mart he complains about. This is entirely justified, in my view. I understand that a few will take issue with it as selective, but broadly, people shouldn’t see it that way, and in fact, I believe they don’t. It does’t take a lot of perspectival imagination to see where people are coming from on this.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird says:

      @jaybird, we had blue laws in the past that mandated most businesses be closed on Sundays and holidays and survived. I don’t see why we can’t do this again. The key is to order the places of business shut down on particular days regardless of what they call their staff. Just say they can’t open and there are no if, ands, or buts about it. You aim the law at the owners and don’t even mention employees at all.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Or just tax ’em.

        A 20% sales tax from 2pm on Thursday to 8 am on Friday. If stores want to stay open, they can. If they want to close, they can. But whatever deals they offer to customers are going to be eaten up by the additional charge.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Alan, that might work but I’m not government if the state can or should have the power to make the sales tax higher on particular days even if its for a good purpose.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I’d be awfully weird if they could mandate closure but not take lesser steps…Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Alan, I’m wondering if courts might find some reason to strike down one-day sales taxes as being arbitrary for some reason or another. I’m not against high taxes but taxes should be consistent and not change on particular days.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Lee, I worked at a place that closed for major (and some minor!) holidays but we, as contractors, were told that we did not get those holidays and, besides, we were “essential services” or whatever the term was. We kept the servers up and running.

        There are a lot of businesses out there that have “essential services” kinda people. Corporations with buildings that you’d never think to go into but only drive past.

        You may shrug and think that the point of the law is to protect the lower classes, not the IT set. Fair enough. Would restaurants still be open? Because even with the blue laws of my youth, restaurants were still open. You’d go to church, you’d then go to Denny’s or Russ’s or (rattles off a number of local places) and then go home.

        Because, lemme tell ya, it seems like we’re doing a small favor, but only a small one, for the people with two jobs. “Oh, I *KNOW* I’m not scheduled to work Sunday at Wal-Mart… so I can work a double.”

        Here’s what I think is key to how many buildings and businesses (restaurants excepted, of course) were closed when I was a kid.

        We called it “Keeping The Sabbath Holy”.

        You get a reason like that behind it, I’m pretty sure that we can get to close down most businesses on Sunday. Wal-Marts, Targets, and Costcos alike. Restaurants might have to stay open, but maybe, if enough people cooked at home, they’d see that they’d make more money locking their doors that day.

        We need to change the culture. If you try to pass a law without changing the culture, you are going to fail and fail *HARD*.Report

  8. Avatar trizzlor says:

    Can someone help me see what’s wrong with this? I suppose we could close for state holidays, but then we would be less profitable. If we were less profitable, we would likely not be able to consider raises for employees, new hires or holiday bonuses.

    This assumes that (a) your business decisions always optimize growth so all profits are re-invested back into the business; and (b) optimizing growth should be our number one priority as consumers, voters, etc.

    (a) I hope it’s not controversial to observe that business owners do not always re-invest their profits in this way; perhaps a few crumbs will fall by the wayside for a private yacht or a jet here and there. Certainly the fact that wage gaps are so different between Wal Mart and Costco suggests that some companies re-invest differently than others. As such, I don’t see anything wrong with criticizing one profit-culture over another.

    (b) Historically, we’ve accepted that there is a point at which unbridled business growth is no longer the top priority. Minimum wage, overtime pay, mandatory breaks, etc. can all stifle growth but carry their own intrinsic value, so much so that we’ve codified them in law (does that make them a “right”?). Then there’s a bunch of stuff in-between that is probably too hard to codify but is generally culturally valued: e.g. not patronizing a business where the owner verbally abuses the employees (even if that makes them more efficient). Having holidays off seems to fall into this category of in-between stuff, where the necessity of the business and the efficiency of profit-sharing factor in. Personally, I try to shop at places where I would be comfortable working, which means not shopping on holidays. If that results in businesses being unable to leverage my sales to hire additional employees – so be it – because I also support programs for those unable to get work to get support or retrain if the sector is saturated.

    Here, the Pizza Hut story is illuminating because the manager was re-hired and PH apologized. Contra the OP, it was PH’s decision to fire him that ended up costing them money. Their corporate culture was no longer profitable. I think this is the kind of change critics of Black Thanksgiving are getting at.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to trizzlor says:

      As the risk of being presumptuous, I’d venture to guess that the overlap between people who took to the internet to complain about the PH firing and people who regularly order from PH is relatively small.Report

      • Avatar trizzlor in reply to Kazzy says:

        As the risk of being presumptuous, I’d venture to guess that the overlap between people who took to the internet to complain about the PH firing and people who regularly order from PH is relatively small.

        What do you think made them change a policy that was profitable (at least directly) and then publicly advertise that change in multiple apologies?Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Kazzy says:

        @kazzy , you’d be guessing wrong, at least judging from who I’ve seen forwarding the story around facebook.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        “…you’d be guessing wrong…”

        It’s been known to happen. Though I don’t know that Facebook is necessarily the best source for the matter.

        Consider Chik-Fil-A, whose stance on gay rights drew my ire, sometimes publicly. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve patronized their store. So while I might have gotten all huffy and insisted that I would not eat there so long as their owner supported the causes he did, it wouldn’t have meant much given that I am unlikely to eat there as it is. So I would have been an unreliable data point.

        All that said, my hunch is that PH’s decision with regard to this manager — whether they never fired him, fired him permanently, or fired and rehired him — would ultimately have had little impact on their bottom line.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Kazzy says:

        @kazzy , my point is that the people I see forwarding the Pizza Hut story are, demographically speaking, the sort of people I’d expect to be pizza hut customers. I don’t think they’d be swearing off PH for life, but if every regular Pizza Hut customer who shared that story decided to skip one Pizza order, Pizza Hut is still out hundreds of thousands of dollars–especially considering that the story will almost certainly get forwarded around next thanksgiving and the thanksgiving after that too.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        In which case, I stand fully corrected.Report

    • Working from the bottom up:

      The fact that Pizza Hut rehired the guy because it ended up being a PR nightmare merely means that a sufficiently vocal number of complainers doesn’t share my perspective. Which is fine. But it doesn’t actually alter my belief that an employer has the right to terminate an employee who decides to close their store without permission. (I assume that closing the store in such a manner is not in the manager’s job description. If general managers have discretion about whether or not to close their particular store on any given day, then clearly my opinion needs revising.)

      I agree that working on holidays is in that “fuzzy middle ground” between egregious corporate malfeasance and over-reaching employee demand. I happen to find it totally acceptable, for the reasons I’ve already stated. YMMV. I just don’t think a big box retailer expecting its employees to work on major holidays is Triangle Shirtwaist territory.

      And obviously different companies handle their profits differently. My small privately-held interest is going to handle profits differently than a gigantic publicly-held multinational will. I know that there are myriad issues swirling around Wal-mart’s treatment of its employees, on which I do not care to pronounce. I just happen to think this current rage is, at base, thin gruel.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Russell Saunders says:


        YMM *EL* V, though? That is the question I think it’s not clear in your post, Russell. EL = entirely legitimately.

        It’s unclear to me whether the thrust of your post is, “Why the hell are all these people putting up a stink over this – it’s a totally unreasonable and illegitimate thing to expect.” (“Expect” being distinct from “ask for” there.) If that’s the thrust, it’s, in my view too late to then go to the YMMV position. If that’s the thrust, it seems like you’re saying milage shouldn’t vary, at which point it doesn’t mean much just to observe that it might.

        But if you’re say, “Hey I don’t really care about having to work holidays, but I guess others do,” then clearly that’s a position that says, YMELMV. But as you depart from that position, the real meaning of saying YMMV about this, especially as regards the “EL” part of that claim to have a tolerant attitude about various views on this topic, begins to erode significantly.Report

      • @michael-drew The point of my post is that using mandatory holiday hours as a proxy for Wal-mart’s larger employee-treatment woes is a losing proposition. As many people on this and Ethan’s post have commented, and as was the point I was aiming at, there are many, many businesses that make their low-wage employees work on holidays, and have done for years.

        As I’ve stated in various comments, I can understand quite well why Thanksgiving in particular would be a holiday that Wal-mart would want to be open. I think shopping on that day is daft, but plenty of eager consumers disagree with me, and Wal-mart is in the business of pleasing eager consumers.

        Other people clearly think this is egregious, and I am generally loath to tell people their concern for the welfare of others is wrong. But as @rtod has pointed out in his own comment, using the holiday issue as a rallying point is a flawed strategy.Report

  9. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    Can someone help me see what’s wrong with this? I suppose we could close for state holidays, but then we would be less profitable.

    This illustrates the changes that have occurred between the days when I was a teenager and the present. 45 years ago my family moved, arriving at the new house outside Omaha late in the evening of July 3 sans food or cooking equipment. Finding breakfast the next morning required driving 10-12 miles to the nearest truck stop on the interstate, which was the only restaurant open that morning. The reason for that was that it wasn’t profitable for more regular restaurants to be open that day; there wasn’t going to be enough business to cover the costs of being open. Ditto for the groceries, the department stores, and the specialty shops. People did things other than shop on the 4th of July.

    OTOH, today it’s quite profitable to be a restaurant open on the 4th (or most other holidays). Or pretty much any of the big box stores. If Wal-Mart knew that they were going to lose business by opening the stores — it’s not just wages, it’s lighting and heating/AC and all that sort of thing — they wouldn’t open them.Report

  10. Avatar Alan Scott says:

    We’re really missing the point here.

    It’s easy to bash on Ethan for his knee-jerk leftist rant, or look down on this guy who should probably just shut the hell up and get a job in manufacturing. But they, and all other critics of black Thursday whose arguments are less than sharp, are all reacting to a real problem.

    Thanksgiving is a disappearing holiday for vast swathes of the American Public. There is no getting around this truth. Half a decade ago, most retail and service workers could sit around a table with their family and eat turkey on the fourth Thursday of November. Today, they cannot.

    This is the result of a genuine market failure. Shoppers don’t want to shop on the holiday, but those who show up earliest get the best deals. Stores don’t want to be open on the holiday, but stores who open first get more customers. Market actors who, acting rationally on an individual level, create a sub-optimal state of affairs. It’s a prisoners dilemma where the police go to prison too.

    This is not Walmart’s fault. This is not the fault of customers who shop on Black Thursday. This is a natural result of current market conditions. But it’s not the best result.

    Hospitals are open on Thanksgiving because it is the nature of hospitals to always be open. But nobody schedules non-emergency surgery that day. Sure, doctors and nurses who draw the short straw will show up to work. But @russell-saunders , If you could wave a magic wand and make it so that nobody was sick on thanksgiving day and the hospital could remain closed, you would in a heartbeat. I suspect you’d wave that wand even if it meant that those people would just need an extra 1/364 worth of care the rest of the year.Report

    • I’m not entirely certain there’s much to do about Thanksgiving, other than opt out of shopping around it. As I note above, it’s the last major holiday preceding the biggest gift-giving occasion of the year. It seems inevitable, given our consumerist culture, that Thanksgiving would mutate so horribly.

      And the problem with your last paragraph is that it would indeed take magic to change things. Hospitals will always need to be open, and patients will still need their trays of food delivered and the floors will still need to be mopped. There will always be some low-wage workers whose employers demand they show up for work, leaving them no option. I do not think this is a fundamentally unjust situation, and don’t even think Wal-mart is (in this particular instance) doing anything other than behaving rationally under the prevailing circumstances.Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to Russell Saunders says:

        I really don’t think it’s fundamentally unjust, and it has to do more with the total compensation package.
        People working retail normally enjoy much more flexible hours than many other industries.

        Years ago, I was managing a small office, and I had a worker who wanted to take a scheduled day off to go see the Pope, about four hours away. I thought about it for a second or two, and realized that this was likely a once-in-a-lifetime sort of thing for her; so I told her, “Go.” We would make due somehow. And we did.
        There are all sorts of things that come up in peoples’ lives (and especially so when those people have kids). A little flexibility is in order for an employer. Likewise, it’s necessary to set baseline limits on that flexibility.Report

      • Avatar Pete Mack in reply to Russell Saunders says:

        @russell-saunders You mentioned that low wage workers must work in the hospital on Thanksgiving. You did not mention whether they get time-and-a-half or double-time pay. I suspect they do. I also suspect they have health insurance, full time and fairly regular hours.

        You can be sure that Walmart is not giving overtime for working on the holidays! There’s a big difference in treatment for these cases.Report

      • Avatar Johanna in reply to Russell Saunders says:

        I didn’t get paid extra to work on the holidays at my clerical hospital position. There are also a number of per diem folks at the hospital who definitely don’t get insurance or are guarranteed or scheduled regular hours.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Alan Scott says:

      Shoppers don’t want to shop on the holiday,

      You should meet my neighbor.

      but those who show up earliest get the best deals.

      Which leaves us shoppers no real choice at all. I didn’t actually stay home both Thursday and Friday–apparently that was an illusion.Report

    • I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy the idea that getting the best deals on what are fundamentally non-essential luxury items deprives consumers of their free will. No, what it means is that for a disturbingly large segment of the population, getting the best deals on non-essential luxury items is a more important value than spending a few hours with the very people for whom they would be buying the non-essential luxury items.

      This is a cultural problem and a demand-side problem far more than it is a supply side problem. It really truly saddens me that this is where the culture has headed, and I greatly admire the businesses that have decided to stay closed for the holiday; but it is really hard to place blame on retail businesses for acting like retail businesses by giving in to demand.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mark Thompson says:


      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        This might be a chicken and egg problem. Do people prefer to spend the time shopping for non-essential luxury items rather than spend it with family because businesses are offering bargains or are businesses offering bargains because thats what people want?Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        “This is not Walmart’s fault.” I put that right in my post. I don’t blame retail businesses for acting like retail businesses. This is a market failure, not a villainous plot. The solution isn’t for Batman to punch the evil Wal-Master square in the jaw.

        I’d be happy if my State passed a one-day Pigouvian tax.Report

      • It’s not a market failure, though- the market is giving people exactly what they, for better or worse, seem to prefer.

        Nor @leeesq Is it a chicken or egg issue- if there was no demand for it, the number of stores doing this wouldn’t be increasing, as it wouldn’t be profitable to open for business. But what we’re seeing is the opposite – more stores doing it, and doing it with same store sales increasing significantly the longer the stores are open on Thanskgiving.

        Mind, I’m not opposed to mandating extra holiday pay for non-exempt employees on Thanksgiving, but beyond that, I don’t see a solution, as appalling as I personally find the situation.

        Markets are amoral in and of themselves; some peopele thus tend to credit them too much when a morally wonderful outcome arises in markets, but as many (and probably more) tend to blame them far too much when morally problematic results arise in markets, when in reality the morally problematic results are far too often an example of “we have met the enemy and he is us.”. They are more often a mirror on who we actually are rather than who we like to think we are. The market in this case hasn’t failed anyone – our culture has failed its own purported values.Report

      • Mark, it can be not-a-market-failure and yet still have collective action problems. The consumers individually may not want this, but if they wait until Friday there won’t be the good deals left. The retailers individually may not want this, but their sale on Friday will be sold by someone else on Thursday if they’re not open on Thursday.Report

      • @will-truman Perhaps, but I think it’s important to keep in mind that we’re talking about what are essentially luxury items here – the costs of not going shopping on Thanksgiving for sales are remarkably, astoundingly small if a given consumer places substantial on time with family on Thanksgiving. By going out for sales on Thanksgiving Day, one is signalling that being able to buy a couple extra gifts by saving money on Thanksgiving deals is more important to oneself than spending that amount of time on Thanksgiving with the persons for whom one is buying those gifts.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mark Thompson says:


        And that may say less about the value of the sales than how much these shoppers value time with family. 😉Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        Thank you for expressing more eloquently what I as driving at upthread; with symbolic insubstantiveness.
        Two thoughts here (the easy one first):

        1) In the aggregate, I don’t see closing for six days out of the year as significantly reducing the overall productivity of the American worker.

        2) Diminishing the human element of society has been occurring at a fairly rapid pace for several years now; something which I find fairly disturbing.
        Case in point: text messages.
        To me, the fact that I have received a text says, “I have something unimportant to say.” Unless it’s from a co-worker and I’m on the job, in which case it says, “I don’t really have time to talk right now, but I wanted to give you a ‘heads up.'”
        I don’t believe it’s an issue with technology making people more withdrawn and disengaged. It looks more to be withdrawn and disengaged persons taking advantage of a means to express those qualities more fully.
        Which is what I see at the heart of the Wal-Mart/Thanksgiving brouhaha:
        That more full expression of anti-social (or questionable) tendencies comes at a price. Newton’s Third.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        @mark-thompson, stores did not offer holiday sales on Thanksgiving Thursday for decades and most people were fine with it. The holiday sales season always started on the Friday after. Than for some reason stores started the holiday shopping season on Thanksgiving itself. Either some manager thought it would be to the stores advantage or there were demands for it that I don’t know about.Report

      • @leeesq the demand for it was evidenced in no small part by the fact that absurd numbers of people were already camping out overnight to get in line for Black Friday. Also worth mentioning is that stores were largely doing as much business on Black Friday as their space allowed, which means that there was business they were probably missing out on. In many ways, opening on Thanksgiving stems from little more than a decision to not ake customers wait outside and assemble into an angry mob while waiting for the store to open.Report

      • @mark-thompson The “angry mob formation” potential is one of the most depressing phenomena I’ve witnessed in American popular culture (which is saying quite a lot, really), and the reality that stores may need to take steps to mitigate it reflects terribly on our society.Report

      • Lest we forget, this is the sort of thing that happened one of the last years where Walmart waited until Black Friday to open:

        The demand for earlier hours was so great that consumers were prepared to express it by forming a lethal mob.Report

      • @russell-saunders Yes, indeed.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mark Thompson says:


        That’s a really important perspective on the issue.

        Depressing as all hell, of course.

        I was expressing my disdain yesterday about the fact that people would camp out overnight waiting for sales, and my wife asked me how that was any different than her camping out overnight to buy concert tickets when she was young. I didn’t have an answer to that. I guess it’s not much different. But at the point where it changes from peaceful camping out to out-of-control mobs–whatever it is people are waiting in line for–clearly we have a problem.Report

      • @jm3z-aitch Well, this is obviously a whole different ball of wax, but I do think there is something different about camping out for a sale and camping out for concert tickets.

        Seeing a performance, particularly by a beloved singer or actor or what have you, may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. That performer may never show up in your area again, and the chance to see him or her may be fleeting. Not so much with an X-box, which will still be pretty much the same thing if you buy it next month.

        Now, perhaps it will be marginally more affordable in that brief window of post-holiday shopping time. But nobody needs a gaming console so badly that it’s worth stampeding.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mark Thompson says:


        I guess I’m just of a different mindset. It’s hard for me to fathom camping out for anything except, well, actually camping out (in nature, not a parking lot). But given that almost nothing appears to me to be worth camping out for, if other people do find some things to be worth doing so I don’t see how I can count myself qualified to judge which of those things justify their particular devotees’ choice to camp out and which of those things don’t justify their own devotee’s similar choice.Report

      • @jm3z-aitch I don’t really judge people for camping out for sales. I can’t relate to it at all, but I don’t think it reflects some kind of character defect, either. I can understand doing so for a concert ticket more than an item, though.

        And forming a lethal mob is morally outrageous, whatever the coveted thing that sparks it.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        I agree that a lethal mob hell bent on getting a deal on an X Box or a television is morally outrageous. I do wonder what it says about our culture and our social system that people are willing to go that far for televisions and X Boxes, though.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        I’m mystified by this idea that pushing up the opening should make the crowds safer/more reasonable. The crowds are there to be the first people to the deals, which are on a limited amount of inventory. they line up because when it’s gone at price $X, it’s gone, not because they’re ready to shop at noon on Thursday, dammit, and they’re just going to wait until the place opens on Friday morning to show their commitment. Perhaps with changes this year, the crowds were more limited, or perhaps that’s a function of a relaxing of the intensity of this phenpmenon, which was considerably off last year, I believe, and up only lightly from there this year. Whether there are stampedes any given year seems to me to be likely to have a lot more to do with enthusiasm levels, dumb luck, and better or worse crowd management than with the number of patrons in line. It’s not clear to me that opening on Thursday significantly thinned out lines this year, nor even if it did, that we should expect it to continue to do so in the future.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        No argument from me about the mobs.

        My guess–and it’s only a guess–is that if you open at 5 a.m., people will camp out all night. If you push that opening back to 12:01, people will start camping out right after Thanksgiving dinner is over. If you open at noon or earlier on Thanksgiving, people will think, “damn, I’ll be cooking/eating then, so I guess I’ll just eat quickly and go, but I’m not going to skip the meal to camp out.”

        I agree about crowd management, though. When my wife used to camp out for concert tickets, the ticket seller would often come out and give bracelets to the people in line so that their claim was staked and they could wander off to the nearby fast food joint/gas station/what have you to pee and get snacks without there being a fight about who’s first in line, and then when the place opened there was no point in pushing your way up to the front of the line. So she was wondering why stores didn’t come out with bracelets at least for the big ticket/deep discount items like big screen TVs, and hand those out to people in line to limit the need to rush the store when it opened. Maybe there’s just too many items they’d need to do that with.

        But certainly there are other methods of effective crowd management that they could employ to prevent chaos.Report

      • @michael-drew The earlier you open though, the more the opportunity costs of getting those early deals, and thus the fewer people that you should expect to be lined up at opening. By pushing the openings all the way to Thanksgiving – Thanksgiving morning, even, in the case of KMart (in this regard, Walmart is actually one of the least bad offenders here), you make the opportunity costs for those deals so great that only the most sociopathically deal-obsessed people, who presumably would be wholly unwilling to buy the items at a higher price, will be lining up.

        Walmart – to its credit, frankly – further attempted to tamp down the problem of people lining up for deals with its “One-Hour Guarantee” Black Friday promotion.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        The idea behind opening earlier has never been about making it safer, but about getting people’s limited holiday dollars first, before they can spend it somewhere else. If I have $500, and I spend it on door buster TV and X Box deals at Walmart on Thursday night, I can’t spend it on the (potentially better, likely at least comparable) TV and X Box deals at Best Buy. The crazier and crazier Black Friday sales and the earlier and earlier openings (pushed back into Thursday now) are simply products of the way the market works.Report

      • @chris My point is more that the earlier and earlier openings are a response to consumer demand for such openings, which is exemplified by the mob scenes.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Mark Thompson says:


        I don’t really judge people for camping out for sales.

        I do in some cases. Because in some cases (jury’s out on the preponderance but I’d be willing to wager it’s “most”), the camper is spending more time camping out to save less money than they’d have if they worked the time and then just paid the normal price.

        This signals to me that something other than “saving money” is going on here. It’s a shopping experience thing, of some sort.

        And I’m okay with sneering down my nose a bit at crass consumerism, when it’s crass.Report

  11. Avatar Mal Blue says:

    A few years ago, I was livid because a guy on my team wouldn’t stay after a couple hours and help unload a delivery truck. The guys on the docks were shorthanded because of a bug going around.

    I was complaining about it to someone, talking about what a crappy employee this guy is. She made a good point: I wasn’t really upset that he refused to help and I didn’t think that made him a bad employee. I was angry that he was a bad employee and overreacting to the latest little piece of evidence of that.

    I think that’s a lot of what’s going on here. I don’t think a lot of people are really that pissed at having to work on T-Day. I think they’re pissed off at the system, and are overreacting to this piddly thing because of their anger at the system. It’s much more of a wage thing and an employment law thing than a holiday thing, I think.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mal Blue says:


      But this “thing” is something that has existed for a long time and is the case for the vast majority of employees: you have to show up when the boss says to.

      So this isn’t the straw that broke the camel’s back. This isn’t even a straw.

      Where is the outrage at the NFLers who have to play on Thanksgiving? Does it not exist because most of them are millionaires? Okay… what about team staffers? What about the guy selling hot dogs? Where is the moral outrage on his behalf?

      The NFL recently added a third game to their traditional NFL slate, raising the number of people working on the holiday by approximately 50%. This was a pure money grab. Where is the outrage?

      There are a lot of things to criticize Walmart about. There are a lot of things to criticize the system about. Having to show up to work when your boss tells you to or risking consequences (including loss of employment) isn’t worthy of criticism; it’s part of the deal.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

        The NFL recently added a third game to their traditional NFL slate, raising the number of people working on the holiday by approximately 50%. This was a pure money grab. Where is the outrage?

        Trapped behind the outrage about their lying about concussions. Is anything the NFL does *not* a pure money grab?Report

  12. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    I realize that we can never have a holiday where everybody really has off because things always happen. Police, fire people, doctors and nurses at hospitals, and people involved with public transportation will always have to be on the job, or at least some of them will, because stuff happens even on holidays. However, what is the point of national holidays if lots of people in the non-essential private sector can be forced into work because of the reality of holiday shopping or because its always a work day somewhere in the world.

    I might be a naive liberal but aren’t holidays like Thanksgiving, the 4th of July, and Memorial Day in the United States supposed to provide a foundation for the communal American identity through shared celebration? On Thanksgiving, we are supposed to relax and have a communal meal with friends and family and watch the Macy Day’s parade and football. Obviously, many people need to work because stuff happens but we can have a a few days throughout the year when the stores and other places of business are closed and everybody is doing, legally, as they will. There is nothing wrong with using the force of law, we used to call these blue laws, and order places of business closed on Thanksgiving Thursday or even Friday and other holidays from a patriotic position. This is true whether you are a liberal or a conservative. Libertarians might be a different story.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Out of curiosity, which businesses would you allow to stay open? Could grocery stores? Could restaurants, or bars? Would we be shutting down the movie theaters? Would we have the AFM force its members from performing anywhere on those days?

      It’s hard for me not to see this as a class thing. Those who aren’t in Portland won’t necessarily get this reference, but there were a lot of people around here talking about boycotting or even protesting Walmart for being open Thanksgiving. But as far as I could tell, no one was talking about doing anything to Powell’s City of Books or Jakes at the Governor other than maybe swinging by to browse or get a drink on the way to the parent’s house for dinner.Report

      • As I was writing the OP, I was reminded of the “traditional” Jewish Christmas, which comprises Chinese food and a movie. (Last year we had to spend Christmas in the ED with the Squirrel, who had a fever, and ended up having Chinese food for dinner. I felt strangely gratified to be celebrating part of my heritage, albeit in an unplanned manner.) And I thought to myself “Clearly this is long-running way for non-celebrants to pass the holiday. Why has nobody rallied for movie theater employees to have the day off?”Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Why has nobody rallied for movie theater employees to have the day off?

        People would die.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Tod Kelly says:


        I have had non-Jews complain to me about the Jewish, Chinese food and movie because it means (presumably non-Jewish) employees needed to work on Christmas Day. The record was long the lines of “Why can’t you just spend the day with your family at home? Use netflix? Etc.”Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        As I pointed out to James above, its a very difficult question. I would have no problem shutting down all stores, whether it be Wal-Mart or your local independent book store. I also would have no problem closing stock markets, banks, factories, and most offices our globalized world be damned. National identity is still important. Grocery stores and beverage stores might be permissible to open in the morning in order to deal with last minute purchases but only if they deal with requisite items. Everything else is a no go.

        Recreational places like bars, restaurants, movie theaters, theme parks, hotels, and museums, etc. are a little more tricky. There lots of tourists and ordinary Americans who are going to be pissed if these are closed. Many people are also genuinely lonely and don’t have friends or family to celebrate the holiday and they might appreciate if these places are open. Other people might not be able to cook for themselves. I do not not want these people to be left out of the national celebration. Its not an easy choice.

        My ultimate question was more philosophical. Why have national holidays at all if as many people as possible do not celebrate them? Why not just give adults X number of days off a a year and let them take them where they will.Report

      • Avatar trumwill in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Closing grocery stores would have royally screwed over our Thanksgiving, for the record. They supplied the hot turkey! As well as the sides. We’d like to get to the point where we are preparing our own food, but I’m really glad the grocery store offers that service.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I never really got the sense that Christmas staffing was an issue for movie theaters. After all, if people are out seeing movies, isn’t that evidence that people are done with the holiday celebration? My understanding is that theaters have a lot of part time staff, so they typically have enough employees who don’t celebrate Christmas or have their get-together on Christmas eve such that they’re not ruining anyone’s holiday.

        I compare this to my former workplace, a grocery store, that was open the morning of thanksgiving. The people who stayed in town and weren’t cooking a meal showed up and worked. Usually, there were more volunteers than available shifts.

        Contrast this, though, to the black Thursday sales. Nobody would be showing up to department stores on thanksgiving day if the stores were charging full price.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @trumwill, thats one reason why I’m willing to work in a partial exception for places selling food stuffs and other holiday supplies but only for limited hours. Ideally people would buy everything they need before hand but stuff always happens. It will be for very carefully holiday defined items though. Stores will not be able to use it as a loop-hole into opening.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Tod Kelly says:


        After all, if people are out seeing movies, isn’t that evidence that people are done with the holiday celebration?

        How is “After all, if people are out shopping, isn’t that evidence that people are done with the holiday celebration” not a perfect analog of your point?Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @jm3z-aitch , if these stores were charging the prices they usually do, they’d be EMPTY. The two cases aren’t equivalent at all.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        So, although people are willing to cut their holiday celebrations short for a bargain, that does not mean they’re done with their holiday celebrations?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        if these stores were charging the prices they usually do, they’d be EMPTY

        From what I recall, “Black Friday” was called that *BEFORE* it became known as a big sale day. It was known as the biggest shopping day of the year (whether or not that was true, of course, but it was a day that was likely to be off for a lot of non-retail folks and they spent that day at the mall).

        It was once the stores said “biggest shopping day of the year, eh? We should leverage that and make them come *HERE* rather than our competitors!” and they began their race to the bottom.

        Once they get to the bottom, some will realize “we’d make more money and introduce more good will into the community by opening at 6AM on Friday like normal crazy people.”

        By that point, they’ll likely be right.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Also, many movies open on Christmas, which is not completely dissimilar to holding a sale. Like the fantastical bargains and people lining up outside stores, seeing a movie on opening day is an event. Some folks like that kind of stuff.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @jaybird , I mean on thanksgiving day. While I’m personally not a fan of Black Friday, I have absolutely no objection whatsoever to stores being open at 8am the day after thanksgiving.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        This may be a blind spot of mine, because I hate shopping, but I can definitely picture going to a movie on Thanksgiving because if I have to listen to Uncle Ned complain about Obama for five more minutes I’m going to pull my ears off, but I cannot imagine avoiding that by saying “Let’s go to Target!”

        In other words, I think movies get extra revenue from being open on the holidays, where retail in general is just shifting business they’d get anyway.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to LeeEsq says:

      aren’t holidays like Thanksgiving, the 4th of July, and Memorial Day in the United States supposed to provide a foundation for the communal American identity through shared celebration? On Thanksgiving, we are supposed to relax and have a communal meal with friends and family and watch the Macy Day’s parade and football.

      We have so many different elements of celebration going on with these holidays, that I think we can lose one or two without losing the communal identity aspect of them. For the past several years my wife and I have not had Thanksgiving with the extended family as we normally have (for reasons having to do with a cousin who currently cannot travel out of state, and that person’s residence being too far for us to travel comfortably), but that doesn’t mean Thanksgiving has lost meaning to us in any way.

      I’m not suggesting that families getting together is less important than the Detroit Lions football game. But I am suggesting that a family shifting their get-together to a different day, or some people not being able to make their family get-together some years, is not likely to destroy the meaning of the holiday as long as it has such a comprehensive structure of meanings and symbols.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Is not celebrating the holiday at the proper time important? The 4th of July is generally considered the day the Declaration of Independence was signed. This isn’t entirely accurate historically but its true enough to make it a good day as any for the birthday of the United States. The time is essential to meaning in many holidays. A city or county having its fireworks celebration on July 14th to celebrate America’s birthday isn’t quite the same.*

        *Yes I realize that this is Bastille Day, I picked it for a reason.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Around here, the 4th of July has become a weeklong celebration. I love fireworks about as much as anyone, and fervently follow Apu’s (the Simpsons) advice to celebrate our countrys birthday by blowing up a small piece of it, but 5 or 6 nights of fireworks seems a bit excessive to me. But it also means that if the 4th doesn’t work out because you have to work the evening shift at the auto parts plant you can be sure your friends are going to be willing to join you some nearby night to risk life and limb by drinking and lighting explosives.

        I don’t know, I’m just not so moved by the “correct day” argument, but that’s probably because growing up we always celebrated birthdays on the nearest convenient weekend, rather than on the day proper. As with horseshoes, hand grenades, and atom bombs, close seems good enough to me.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Here the county fair runs for five or six days around the 4th and has a firework show every night. We can see it from the street, and we usually do for a few of them, but the 4th is the night that the whole block comes out and watches it together. Not because anyone arranged it, but because that’s the night everyone makes a point of doing it up right.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Some towns near me do fireworks on nights other than the 4th in lieu of the actual day itself. The reasons are multitude: weekends generate higher traffic than weekdays; most people work the 5th meaning not all can afford a late night on the 4th; and competition with local towns. The latter is only an issue with regards to local economics. So how is that any different than Black Friday shifts?Report

  13. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    For the record, I did not go shopping on Thanksgiving Thursday. On Friday, I spent most of my time in a museum with family and purchased a new coat. At the very least I think that Thanksgiving Thursday should be time off for stores and places of business, commerce, and even recreation. Friday is up for grabs but it might be a good idea to create a four day weekend.

    Obviously worker rights are important to me in this issue but thats only part of it. The other part is about the nature of holidays and national identity itself. On this issue, the liberals and the left are taking the patriotic position by arguing that national holidays should be celebrated by as many people as possible. This is true for every country.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to LeeEsq says:

      The idea of our country dictating which days we spend with our families is such an odd idea to me. It is as though there is a sense that we as people are unable to see the importance of making family time on our own. Or society chooses some dates with jacked up prices on flights, hotels, gas, increased traffic all to be a part of this “holiday”. I like spending time camping with our family during the summer. It is far more fufilling than the few hours spent together that is expected just because it is Thanksgiving. Driving for hours just to spend a couple of hours together and then back in the car again is quality time off? I would rather work, use the money earned and saved on gas to visit with them another time. This year I am thankful we did not drive 10 hours for a 2-3 hour family visit. I didn’t buy or shop at all on Thanksgiving or Black Friday. This isn’t about workers rights or recreation, hospitality, food service, and all the other workers outside of retail who work on holidays would have equal consideration.Report

      • Avatar Johanna in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        That last comment was from me.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        @johanna, your view is ahistorical from a historical prospective. The United States government and the various local and state governments have dictated how people could spend there time from the creation of the country. HUAC anybody? Blue Laws? This sort of thing has greatly decreased but officially certain holidays do have meaning.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:


        This is a good reason not to have laws saying that businesses must be closed on certain days. I’m strongly against that precisely so that you (or an earlier version of you) can have the ability to work and serve customers who want to patronize the business you work(ed) for. Learning, as I have from this thread, that in some older jurisdictions some such laws still exist sort of bums me out. Those laws should come off the books.

        But what about a law, or even just a norm, that only says that, on certain days, outside of certain industries and professions (emergency medical, etc., perhaps ski resorts;)) businesses can’t make employment for the rest of the year contingent on being available for work? This is, after all, pretty much what is done for religious holidays for people in minority religions. As things now stand, there simply isn’t a way for everyone who celebrates Christmas and would like it off to be able to take the day off. Most can, but many can’t – the number of (nominally) Christians is just too large; enough businesses are open that people who would otherwise like to have th day off are told they have to work, unless they actually make a First Amendment issue out of it. The idea I have in mind would extend the kind of protections for (for example) the Jewish holidays that have become a matter of custom in the business world (because the numbers work – you don’t have to let go of your ability to compel the majority of your workforce to be at work, only a small minority in most cases) to various other holidays. A person could say that this would be an establishment of religion, but Christmas is already a federal holiday; I’m not sure why the justification for that wouldn’t extend to this. Anyone who wanted to work could, they just might get paid a bit more, as the business might have to entice enough employees to be open to come to work with wage premiums on those days (since they can’t say, be here, or you don’t have a job for the rest of the year).

        Now, there are a bunch reasons why this probably wouldn’t work practically, including possibly the decision of which days to include being impossible to make in a fair way. I just wonder if the idea is as anathema to you if it’s not presented in a way that would take away your choice to work, as closure laws do/would, and that may actually result in a benefit to you that results from, just on certain days, giving special protections to everyone’s ability to choose to work *or not*, without, again, just on certain days, having losing their jobs hanging over their heads as a consequence of the decision.Report

  14. Avatar Roger says:

    Markets serve the consumer and the consumer apparently wants to be able to shop on Thanksgiving. We are all consumers, so the way to make our voice known is via our actions. Make your voice known by shopping or not shopping.Report

    • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Roger says:

      Bullshit do markets serve the consumer. Markets serve the markets, and the consumer is just an actor in them, just like the vendor. They respond to incentives just as vendors do. The consumer would rather shop on not thanksgiving, all else being equal–but all else is not equal.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Alan Scott says:

        The consumer would rather shop on not thanksgiving, all else being equal–but all else is not equal

        Can we all agree that none of us can speak for all consumers? I mean, I’d rather not shop on Thanksgiving even if things are unequal (as I told my wife while buying a new TV on Saturday, if they gave me the TV and $200 in cash I still wouldn’t have gone out on Thanksgiving or Black Friday), but my neighbor? She gets a manic gleam in her eye and can’t wait for the stores to open. She’s nuts, man, but it doesn’t bother her at all that it’s Thanksgiving.

        So your statement is true for many consumers, but it’s not true for all consumers. If you think it is, I’m going to ask you to provide some evidence in support of such an extraordinary claim.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Alan Scott says:

        Here’s an easy one: Did she go out shopping with a gleam in her eyes five years ago when there weren’t black Thursday deals? Surely not every store was closed on thanksgiving. So if she’s got a passion for shopping on thanksgiving day, rather than shopping on sale day, she’d have found some way to express it.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Alan Scott says:

        That’s a different question, Alan. I’m afraid you moved the goalposts from “would she prefer not to shop on Thanksgiving” to “does she prefer to shop on Thanksgiving or just sale day?”

        Those aren’t the same questions. Sure, she prefers to shop on sale day, but she has no preference about whether sale day is Thanksgiving or another day. It’s not that she wants it to be on Thanksgiving necessarily, but that she also doesn’t want it to be on Black Friday necessarily–she is indifferent, as best I can tell, and so “would prefer not on Thanksgiving” is an inaccurate descriptor of her.

        Put another way, she couldn’t wait to go shopping on Thanksgiving, tried–as she does every year, from when it was Black Friday to today when it’s Thanksgiving–to persuade my wife to go because it’s so much fun, and made no complaints at all about it being on Thanksgiving instead of the next day. So, no, no indication that she has the preference you apply to all consumers.

        People differ, Alan. Some are fucking nuts, no doubt. But they differ. Neither side here can accurately claim all consumers think the same way about this.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Alan Scott says:

        Sure. I stipulate that when I said people would rather not shop on thanksgiving, I should have said that people would not rather shop on thanksgiving, and many people would rather not shop on thanksgiving. That makes my arguments no less valid.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Alan Scott says:


        I wasn’t trying to claim your argument was invalidated, just that the particular claim was overbroad. I’m always wary of “everybody thinks X” arguments. Politicians do it all the time: “The American people want X!” You’ve seen this with conservatives and Obamacare–they’d have us believe that Americans all want to do away with it. Sure, lots of Americans do, but not all, and probably not even a majority. It’s just a bad practice, and we inadvertently put ourselves in bad company when we do it. (Well, not “we,” since I’ve never been known to make the mistake of saying something like that. Oh, no, not me. Uh uh. I swear on a stack of Amurrican flags.)Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Roger says:

      Markets serve the consumer and the consumer apparently wants to be able to shop on Thanksgiving.

      Society doesn’t have to only do whatever best serves consumers. Yes, we’re all consumers, but many of us are also laborers, and we’re all other things, too. As we make decisions at the societal level, IMO we certainly shouldn’t be inattentive to our own wants as identified through out roles as consumers, but likewise our desires as identified through our other roles don’t have to be always and completely suppressed as factors in those decisions in favor of the desires identified through our consumer roles. Occasionally we can take our other roles into account.Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to Michael Drew says:

        The “Markets will sort it out” argument sounds an awful lot like “Consumers buy the paint with lead in it because consumers prefer lead in their paint.”
        Which is to say, I believe the wrong metric is being considered; more properly a question of whether a legitimate governmental objective lies in governmental function. Whether alternatives are available is beside the point; an arbitrary consideration.

        I don’t have much sympathy for those so rooted to one spot that they’re unable to relocate to where the work is (or re-train for some other type of work).
        Still, I think mandatory appearance on any given day as cause for termination is unacceptable.

        I remember, some twenty years ago, working a double shift on Thanksgiving so that other co-workers would be able to spend time with their families. In that case, we voted to keep the store open. I was fortunate enough to work for an employer with some (albeit small) sense of decency, and that was reciprocated by the employees.

        These days, I get double time for holidays.
        Still, there are certain tasks which require someone to be attentive to the equipment 24-hrs a day.
        Shut-down procedures can take up to a week in some instances.

        Overall, I think there are too many aspects to consider for a one-size-fits-all approach.Report

  15. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    I heard this on the radio, so I can’t post a link, but the gist was that the Black Thursday sales have been quite successful, but have caused a significant drop in Black Friday sales. If you add Thursday and Friday, you get a few percentage points above the old Friday-only numbers. That is, there’s no real advantage in retail being open on Thursday; it’s just that if everyone else does it, you have to do it to keep up.

    So while I wouldn’t be in favor of a law that says pre-Christmas sales can’t start until 6:00 AM Friday (nor can I think of any sensible way to draft it), honestly, it wouldn’t do any harm.Report

  16. Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

    Why is providing shoppers with a chance to shop (confounding as I may find it) not good enough reason for a retailer to unlock its doors?

    Because they can shop on Black Friday.Report

    • Avatar Pyre in reply to ScarletNumbers says:

      That’s true.

      Shoppers can also say “Hey, Amazon is open on Thanksgiving with better prices and no risk of being trampled or being forced to wait in 2-hour-long lines on Friday.”. They might then realize that shopping online is a far superior alternative to brick and mortar and never set foot into a Walmart again.

      The elephant in the room that nobody really wants to comment on is that Walmart doesn’t do this to compete with other brick & mortar stores. They’re trying to be competitive with Amazon.Report

  17. Avatar Creon Critic says:

    Think Progress has updated the Pizza Hut story,

    Pizza Hut asked the franchise owner to reconsider firing Rohr, because “we fully respect any employee’s right to not work on a holiday.” He will get his job back [Link to HuffPo quoting a statement from Pizza Hut omitted]:

    [W]e feel strongly that the situation involving our independent franchisee and the local store manager could and should have been avoided. We fully respect an employee’s right to not work on a holiday, which is why the vast majority of Pizza Huts in America are closed on Thanksgiving. As a result, we strongly recommended that the local franchisee reinstate the store manager and they have agreed. We look forward to them welcoming Tony back to the team.


  18. I haven’t had a chance yet to read most of the comments here, and I had read the comments on Ethan’s post last Thursday, so I’m sure there’s more there too that I haven’t read. But here’s my two cents:

    Penny #1: I mostly agree with the views of Russell, Tod, and Jame Aitch. Their views are not completely identical to each others, but I do understand the working on Thanksgiving phenomenon is or can be an opportunity, at least for some, and part of a menu of options that it’s better to have than not, in the sense that in most cases it’s probably better to have a job than not. Also, I refuse to jump on the self-righteous bandwagon of “I would never shop on a holiday.” I don’t usually (and I’m not sure I ever have), but I would and I might, and my sister-in-law and her family do and I’m not going to criticize them for it. I also am not sure of the endgame. Mandatory holiday pay *might* be a solution, but might not, and one has to grapple with the potential consequences. And compulsory closings for non-essential businesses also strikes me as a problem.

    Penny #2: All that said (and Penny #1 is my chief argument and preference here), I imagine there is a sense of powerlessness in working a low wage job and not having a lot of other options. Some, maybe even most, workers who work holidays appreciate the opportunity to work, especially in those cases where the employer offers a premium or time and a half or double time*. But I also imagine that for some, maybe only a minority, of workers, compulsory work on holidays is salt in the wound, and a reminder of their overall powerlessness. Pointing out that they have other options can, at least potentially, sound more like flippant smugness than anything else. The gentleman discussed in the OP, for example, talks about manufacturing jobs being the only higher paying activity. Do we know if finding such a job is as easy as we think it might be? It’s not clear to me, at least from the portion that Russell quoted (I didn’t read the actual linked-to article).

    And Maribou (at least on Ethan’s thread….again, I haven’t read the comments on this thread yet) made very compelling arguments about how a worker might view being compelled to work on holidays (including a strong critique of Yglesias’s “I asked a worker while she was working and she said she didn’t mind working”). I’m not sure I fully agree with Maribou’s final argument, but I think she brings up good points that ought to be considered in all this.

    *I worked at a call-center that had “voluntary” work on holidays. If enough people signed up to work, with the promise of half-shifts at double-time pay, in addition to holiday pay, no one who didn’t want to work would be forced to. When I worked there, no one was ever forced to work the major holidays. But still….double time pay plus holiday plus a half shift is a pretty nifty deal (one works 4 hours and gets paid the equivalent of 2 eight hour shifts), and the workload was light and we binders-full of sympathy points from management and customers. I’m not sure such pay premiums are available at the large retailers. (But I don’t really know…..I imagine it might partially depend on local labor markets.)Report

  19. Avatar Chris says:

    I get the impression that the reason many liberals get upset about stores opening on Thanksgiving has less to do with the specific fact of stores opening on Thanksgiving than it has to do with a vague sense of the class issues that underlie who does and who doesn’t have to work on Thanksgiving, the underlying realities of the labor market, and the general treatment of the working class, particularly of unskilled workers (retail, service, etc.) in our society. The issue of working on Thanksgiving has become a bit of a proxy for those issues, an added insult among the many insults. You could see this in Ethan’s post, in which he was arguing that it was not a secondary issue (which was Yglesias’ point in the post to which Ethan was responding), while at the same time listing the primary issues that are really involved (e.g., a lack of representation in our political system because they simply can’t afford the money required to do so, at least not without some collective organization, which, for private employees, is hard to come by these days, particularly in retail).

    As a symbolic action meant to highlight the issues faced by members of the working class, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to focus on highly visible things like stores opening on Thanksgiving, and even shaming them for doing so. I don’t think one has to be committed to a “right to not work on holidays” in order to feel like this is an issue worth highlighting in order to make the larger point. Of course, this is America, and this is the internet, so the symbolic issue will quickly become the issue (resisting the urge to talk about fetishization), independent of the underlying, systematic conditions and relations that result in it being an issue in the first place, for many people, and because they’ve extracted it from those conditions and relations, they’ll have a hard time explaining why they are so upset about it, but that’s a topic for another conversation.

    I will say this: when I was a kid, my father and his partner (and later two partners) alternated holidays: one took Thanksgiving, one took Christmas, and so on, and no one worked Christmas two years in a row. They were on call, which on Christmas meant that they might (might) be home, unless they got called in (which would inevitably happen). Some of their employees (usually their personal nurse – each doctor always had a nurse basically assigned to him or her), along with employees of their answering service, also had to work or at least be on call on those holidays. This sucked for the people working and their families, but the underlying dynamics, particularly for the doctors, were radically different, so outrage on a social or cultural level would have been absurd in a way that it isn’t in the case of, say, Walmart employees.

    Though I will note this, because it might provide a good analogy for the issues being discussed now. One could argue that people who go into the medical profession know that illness and injuries do not know holidays. However, in the 70s and 80s (this is in the Old South, remember), every single non-physician who worked for my father was a woman (and until the 90s, every single physician was a man). Many of them had started their careers in the 60s, when the two primary career paths for women in the South were education and nursing, and in fact many colleges and universities in the South actively discouraged women from going into other fields (my mother went to Vanderbilt, an extremely good Southern university, and all of her female friends from college went to school for one of two degrees: a B.S. in nursing or an Mrs.). So one could argue that, while they knew going in that a career in medicine meant potentially working on holidays, a career in nursing wasn’t really a choice for them, at least not in the way that it was for the men who became physicians, which meant that there was an unfairness to their working on holidays that didn’t apply to my father and his partners.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Chris says:


      But I’m not sure the class issues are as real as people seem to think. I mean, it is only this year and maybe last year that unskilled retail employees were expected to work on Thanksgiving. Yet people have worked on Thanksgiving for decades. My sister — a fancy pants lawyer — is generally expected to put in some hours on Thanksgiving and to be in bright and early on Friday, which usually means she arrives late and leaves early. As I’ve noted elsewhere, many professional athletes (six football teams on Thanksgiving, at least eight basketball teams on Christmas, and every baseball team on Memorial Day, Labor Day, and the 4th of July) and the entirety of those teams’ staff work holidays, with the majority of those employees qualify at least as skilled laborers (and some of them multi-millionaires).

      So, I’m not sure I see the class issue. I think you have to take a fairly myopic view and exclude a whole number of exceptions to paint this as strictly a class issue.

      I agree that the plight of the underclasses is real and that the power disparity is often distorted by the political process. Power begets more power. I agree that there are probably things that can and should be done to address this issue.

      I just think that pointing at retail employees working on Thanksgiving — something that is the reality for far more Americans than seems to be acknowledged — as a unique oppression foisted upon the lower class is inaccurate.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Kazzy says:

        The class issues have to do with compensation/exploitation, choice, and power/control. Your sister, like my father, may have to work on some holidays, but the underlying dynamics are different.

        I agree that retail employees working on Thanksgiving is not a “unique oppression,” and I think as an isolated, independent issue, it’s pretty weak, but I do understand using it as a symbolic one, particularly given the way many of the retailers who’ve been singled out treat their employees otherwise. It’s less about working on Thanksgiving than it is about the powerlessness of the working class. Your sister may not have any say in whether she works on Thanksgiving, and neither did my father back when, but presumably she has more of a voice, if not with her employer specifically (I know that junior lawyers can be treated pretty harshly by employers, but I don’t know where your sister is on the attorney career ladder), then more generally, than hourly retail employees do.

        Athletes are an interesting case. On the one hand, they are paid well, often extremely well. On the other hand, there is a fair amount of exploitation in professional sports. The labor dynamics of professional sports would be an interesting topic for a post or series of posts.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        Professional sports also tend to be legally protected monopolies. And some collude to depress salaries. In a completely wide open market, LeBron James could fetch 3, 4, or maybe even 5 times his salary. But between the salary cap, ‘max contracts’, and the NBA’s monopoly, he is capped at “only” $20M or so.

        I see what you’re saying and think there is an argument to be made there. I just don’t think the way folks like Ethan are making it is particularly effective.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Kazzy says:

        Kazzy, I’d love to see a post on labor issues in professional sports. I know a bit about it, but not enough.

        And I think Ethan was misguided in his post, in part because I think he undermines his own argument. His argument was that the holiday issue is the issue, but argued for this by pointing out that it’s actually a symptom, and I think it’s only an issue as a symptom. I, personally, think it’s a relatively minor issue compared to the fact that unskilled workers are often exploited for the rest of the year, with little or no health coverage, low wages, often unsafe working conditions (see: Amazon), little or no job security, inconsistent hours, etc., etc., etc.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        I, too, would love to see a post on sports and labor issues. I’m not sure I’m the guy to pen it as I don’t know all the legal angles nor the policy issues. I just know that most thinking people I know who’ve seriously considered it recognize it as a uniquely unfair situation but one which few people get upset about because the people getting screwed are mostly millionaires as it is. Fair or not, LeBron James isn’t going to generate a ton of sympathy.

        Maybe over my winter break, I can do some research on the topic.Report

    • Avatar Russell Saunders in reply to Chris says:

      @chris The only people who are expected to show up to see patients on the six holidays when the office is otherwise closed are the physicians/NPs. But as people would (rightly) assume that we are adequately compensated for our time, nobody considers this unjust.

      The question at the crux of all of this is whether or not Wal-mart (or other, similar retail employees) are well-compensated for theirs. And I think working on holidays is a distraction. As I and many other commenters have noted, people up and down the pay scale have to work on holidays for all manner of reasons. This includes people in settings that are arguably more necessary (eg. food or maintenance service workers in hospitals) and less necessary (workers at restaurants and movie theaters and grocery stores). Rallying around something that is not seen as an injustice when it applies to other workers but somehow uniquely to retail employees, especially since (to my eye) there is an understandable reason those stores would want to be open on Thanksgiving, draws attention away from the actual problems related to employee compensation writ large.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Russell Saunders says:

        Russell, I agree with you up to a point: if we treat having to work on Thanskgiving as the issue, then we have no real point. If we treat being forced to work on Thanksgiving at a job in which one has no voice, and one is already exploited, as many retail employees are (and as some on this blog have argued, in essence, that they should be, because that’s the way the market works), then we’re talking about something else entirely. Working on Thanksgiving is not a symptom of larger underlying inequalities and imbalances of power, for you, or for my father, or likely for Kazzy’s sister. For Walmart employees, it can be.

        Again, it should be treated as a symbolic issue, used to highlight the underlying issues faced by Walmart employees and other members of the working class, not as an issue in and of itself.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Russell Saunders says:

        I’ll add that I, personally, am not interested in using Thanksgiving as a symbolic issue, I just understand why some people are and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to do so. Personally, I feel like these sorts of things become a distraction, both because less reflective liberals will fetishize them (as they have), and because the push back, which we’ve seen here and all over the web, will focus on the specific issue to the detriment of the larger ones. This, however, is a problem that people who are concerned about labor issues no matter which battles they choose to fight.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Russell Saunders says:

        If we treat being forced to work on Thanksgiving at a job in which one has no voice, and one is already exploited, as many retail and amusement park, movie theater, and ski resort employees are (and as some on this blog have argued, in essence, that they should be, because that’s the way the market works), then we’re talking about something else entirely.

        Is that change OK?

        Because I’m ok with someone who’s going to be consistent. I’ll disagree with them, but at least they’re not pretending to a principled outrage that is in fact applied selectively.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Russell Saunders says:

        James, if I were interested in using low-wage employees working holidays as an issue symbolic of larger labor issues, then I would consider those cases to be more like Walmart than like physicians or lawyers, because those are likely to be low-wage jobs with large imbalances of power between employers and employees. And while I recognize that those are fields that have traditionally had to work those days, I don’t think that changes the point, unless, as has been the case for many liberals, we’re fetishizing Thanksgiving, and Walmart on Thanksgiving in particular.Report

  20. Avatar zic says:

    From whence did this preoccupation with holidays spring?

    I grew up farming. We never got a day off. Ever. Cows need milking twice a day every single day of the year. When I was pregnant with my youngest, I spent Thanksgiving in the hospital; I had a cold in my inner ear, and because I was pregnant, could not take the drugs that would have stopped the resulting dizziness and all it’s horrid side effects. Nurses and doctors and other hospital staff cared for me, shared a leathery Thanksgiving dinner with me. I now live in the cold, snowy heart of Vacationland, where most people’s work happens while our guests come to play; be it food service, hotel care, outdoor guide, or entertainment, working Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Eve are required. Working school vacations, while your children are home, is required.

    Imagine how awful getting over the river and through the hood would be if the transit workers in NYC were given the day off. Or the first responders.

    This notion of holidays off springs from a half-formed notion of work, and when it’s required. It does a severe disservice to those who do have to work on those days considered family time.

    But I do know this: families of people who must work on these days greater know the value of family time, and put more effort into arranging it, and into not taking it for granted as something that occurs just a few days a year branded ‘holiday.’

    And I know, beyond shadow of a doubt, that working conditions and fair pay matter no matter where you work, every day you work, not just one day.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:

      When do stay-at-home moms and dads get time off?Report

    • Avatar Creon Critic in reply to zic says:

      @zic and several others who’ve made similar points,
      I don’t understand the impulse to point to uncompensated (stay at home moms and dads) and undercompensated (farmers, movie theater, etc.) labor’s subpar conditions and telling the retail employees to join in the misery. Yes, line drawing will ultimately end up with some arbitrary distinctions, but that doesn’t invalidate the act of drawing the line. As Chris notes above, there’s symbolic significance.

      Beyond the symbolism, I wasn’t aware that Wal-Mart had 2 million employees before this discussion. That’s a substantial number of people that given company’s policy impacts. Being the biggest retailer in the world makes you a target for activism full stop. How you treat your employees, where you buy your goods from, and so forth will all be open to criticism and scrutiny because of the very bigness of Wal-Mart. Here’s another for example I had heard before, “if Wal-Mart were an individual economy, it would rank as China’s eighth-biggest trading partner, ahead of Russia, Australia and Canada.”

      What’s more, in some of the instances you (Zic) outlined, the employer recognizes the holiday in other ways. Weekend schedules for NYC Transit employees for instance, I know for sure the LIRR has weekend schedules on holidays. Again, there’s a difference between granting recognition to a holiday, as Pizza Hut ultimately did, “We fully respect an employee’s right to not work on a holiday, which is why the vast majority of Pizza Huts in America are closed on Thanksgiving.” and promoting around being open on the day-of the holiday and offering additional discounts for day-of shopping. Further, there’s a distinction between incentivizing working on holidays and threatening employees who don’t work on holidays with termination.

      And I know, beyond shadow of a doubt, that working conditions and fair pay matter no matter where you work, every day you work, not just one day.

      That is exactly what this issue is about. Working conditions. Left to individual actors we end up with the chilling takeaway of the Melian dialogue: “Right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”Report

  21. Avatar Johanna says:

    I have also been perplexed by this preoccupation with holidays off for retail workers or workers in general for that matter.The mere idea that someone working minimum wage sweeping up garbage at an amusement park, selling movie tickets, loading our luggage or cleaning our hotel rooms does not somehow qualify as equally important when it comes to who can or should work on the holidays an elitist sentiment.

    I am seeing a willingness to classify people according to some perceived moral need. To ignore all of the other holiday workers is to value them lower than those even in retail. I find it troubling this assumption that persons working to service us when it comes to things such as travel or entertainment as acceptable, while somehow simultaneously believing that is it is not so when it applies to retail establishments.

    The idealistic view of the national holiday hasn’t really existed for a very long time for lots more people than we would like to admit. It is a sad commentary that we cling to an ideal that has in reality been non-existent for a good portion of society. How many thousands of workers in the travel, entertainment, sports, grocery, social services, and healthcare industry have been deprived of this benefit but until there was this perceived evil entity WalMart to attack, the forced-to-work holiday crowds have been ignored.

    I worked in several of these industries. As a young child I spent holidays without my father present because he worked for an airline and then for a troubled boys group home. My mother also worked for a community of mentally disabled adults which had her gone on official holidays as well. I grew up believing that the idea of national holidays applied to select folks – the bankers, the postmen, the schools and those more privileged than we were. I did not travel for a holiday until I was engaged.

    Forgive me if this whole social justice uproar strikes me as far too little far too late. My family found time to be together in spite of there being a national holiday. The idea that somehow retail workers joining the ranks of the many who may regularly be working on holidays as the cause of the breakdown of this idealist view of the national holiday strikes me as hollow and insulting to all of the other poorly paid and underappreciated workers who have known nothing other than being in jobs where they have always been expected to work on a holiday.Report

    • Avatar Rod in reply to Johanna says:

      Translation: It’s a class thing. Understand that you either are or are not a part of the select few and get the fuck over it.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Rod says:

        That’s more than a little unfair, Rod.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Rod says:

        When has one’s socio-economic class ever been a matter of indifference? Never, in the history of the United States, so far as I can tell. When have cultural expectations for work ever been static? Same answer.

        Norms and institutions change over time. This may not be a good thing. But it is inevitable. Law and culture effect feedback upon one another. This is a primary mechanism of social change. Both law and culture are subject to overt control as well as drift over time; the exercise of overt control runs a risk of backfire.

        So for now, certain professions and certain members of certain classes are developing an expectation of work on this particular holiday. As the Doc points out, and as I observe in my own office, it’s hardly universal to the lower classes that work on this particular holiday is confined to those whose work commands relatively modest compensation.

        Are things really so bad that we’re willing to run such a risk now, rather than let things continue to drift as they have been? Can we not foresee a world in which things drift back in the other direction? I personally don’t think things are either so intolerable nor am I Hari Seldin to forecast with certainty that things will only ever get worse.

        And where did all this desire to engage in public shaming come from, anyway? I don’t know the answer to this last question. But the targets of the shaming, and the fact that it came from seemingly out of the blue, suggests someone is engaging in an overt effort to push the legal-cultural-economic feedback cycle in a direction they hope will redound to their advantage. I’d like to know what their stake in the game is before I raise my voice in chorus with theirs.Report

      • Avatar Rod in reply to Rod says:

        Why? Because it’s untrue or because it’s not polite to point out?

        I mean… isn’t that really the gist of lo these several hundred comments the last few days? There’s a class of workers that are told what to do and a class of people that do the telling. Sometimes you can get lucky and be in the first group and not get shit on too bad. Like you and, for the most part, like me.

        So Wal-Mart employees had to work Thanksgiving? All of them? Including the corporate suits in Bentonville that told everybody else what to do? Don’t make me laugh.

        It’s not strictly a class thing about whether or not you have to work holidays but there’s a heavy class element to whether you get to decide.Report

      • Avatar johanna in reply to Rod says:

        That is not what I was saying. What is offensive is this sudden moralistic campaign for one set of workers while ignoring the many others who have lived and continue to go without genuine support while living in similar situations which are both not new or unusual. So it is more of a fuck you to those suddenly feeling compassion for the plight of workers.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Rod says:

        @johanna , no it’s not. It’s a fuck you to the working class. Whether you mean it to be or not. It’s a big old steaming pile of “I had a bad time so you should have a bad time too, guy who works at Walmart”. It’s petty. And unless you still sweep up trash at an amusement park every thanksgiving, it’s downright mean.Report

      • Avatar johanna in reply to Rod says:

        No, the sudden interest in the welfare of retail workers over all of the other folks in this discussion about holidays amounts to a fuck you to all of the working class. Take your precious holiday trips, stay in hotels and be entertained on the backs of workers without remorse for years and then suddenly pearl clutch when there is a convenient boogey man to attack. I don’t buy it.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Rod says:

        Because its not what she said.

        I know you like to be read charitably, too.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Rod says:

        It’s a big old steaming pile of “I had a bad time so you should have a bad time too,

        For pete’s sake, she’s saying it wasn’t such a bad time.

        I remember during our equality symposium someone complaining that only the wealthy could go to pro sports events, so I wrote a post talking about going to minor league and DIII college sports events and having a great time. And that person responded by claiming that I was saying poor people should just have to accept being stuck at lousy sports events, when in fact I was saying that those sports events were so damn fun I didn’t really care about not being able to go to pro sports events.

        Do you not see where she said her dad had to work holidays, but that didn’t actually stop the family from getting together?

        To the extent she’s saying get over it she’s saying what others have been saying here, which is that very few employees get to choose when they want to work, so why are we focusing on this particular lack of choice? What makes it so terrible that it should get singled out as compared to having to work nights and weekends?

        I know you, Alan, are against all holiday work (except the necessary jobs), and that’s fine. But that’s not what all the others here are saying, and Johanna’s responding to them. You were mad that I wasn’t reading you charitably enough, but now you’re turning around and reading her very uncharitably. Good move; very principled on your part.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Rod says:


        For pete’s sake, she’s saying it wasn’t such a bad time.

        Clearly, then, I misread @johanna ‘s posts. I apologize for both the tone and content of my replies.Report

      • Avatar Johanna in reply to Rod says:

        Well, dammit, Alan, now I have to admit you’re a good guy and not hold onto a disproportionate seething resentment against you. Thanks for spoiling all my fun. 😉Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Rod says:

        Dammit again, that was me. I don’t understand, since she hasn’t touched the IPad since my last post.

        But for the record, she’s not holding a seething resentment, either.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Rod says:

        James, I hear that there are places you can go so that husband and wife can each have their own devices! In fact, I remember reading somewhere that there was some sort of sale or something recently where things could be purchased at lower prices (in exchange for your living soul)… 🙂Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Rod says:


        Let me hear you suggest that spending when you have three children, all of them eating about 10k calories a day. 😉Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Rod says:

        Thinking more on this as a class issue…

        Years ago I was in an elevator and overheard a lawyer from an elite firm saying, “I only worked 60 hours last week, that was nice.” It’s stuck with me because as a lazy guy it horrified me.

        I’m sure that guy gets Thanksgiving off. But how much of a class privilege is that, really, in comparison to regularly working more than 60 hours a week? Whatever the rate of pay, would you rather avoid working on Thanksgiving, or would you rather avoid regularly working >60 hours per week?

        I’m not arguing the guy didn’t have class privilege. I’m just asking whether the class privilege he had really had much to do with not having to work on Thanksgiving.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Rod says:

        The lawyer from the elite firm should have known better than to have been talking about something in an elevator, where he could have been overheard by opposing counsel, in a fashion which disclosed a weakness such as an overburdened schedule, or fatigue.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Rod says:

        Heh, iirc, there were three of us: him, his friend, and me, a bike messenger. I doubt he had much to worry about. All San Francisco lawyers know bike messengers are dully unintelligent scum who don’t matter except when you’re finishing that court filing at 4:45 p.m.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Johanna says:

      To ignore all of the other holiday workers is to value them lower than those even in retail. I find it troubling this assumption that persons working to service us when it comes to things such as travel or entertainment as acceptable, while somehow simultaneously believing that is it is not so when it applies to retail establishments.

      Exactly. The plight of the retail worker on Thanksgiving is really a meme to challenge or endless habits of consumption. But this is something that cannot be challenged directly, for shopping, shopping, and more shopping is the holy grail of our economy; we’re supposed to spend ever less and less or more and more stuff, without thought or consideration to the the plight of those who made our endless shopping spree, be they working for minimum wage without benefits in Wal-Mart on Thanksgiving or working in a Bangladesh sweatshop sewing shirts that won’t survive a dozen washings.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Johanna says:

      I am also trying to understand the basic message here without reformulating it for my understanding in a way that is unfair. So correct me if I am wrong, Johanna, but what you seem to be saying is, there have always been nots of people in the working classes who were expected to work on holidays, and so, in those industries and jobs where that’s hasn’t been the case but where that is now changing, you basically have no patience for any complaints, since this situation was accepted for so long.

      I guess I have a hard time understanding what the value of this non sympathy is for anyone. Is it realistic that there weren’t going to be jobs where people were expected to work on holidays? Hospitals stay open; airlines continue to operate. But there have been options, at least in theory. Wal-Mart, apparently, was thought to be one of them (and for that, perhaps they deserve more credit in retrospect than condemnation in the present than they’re getting). But when that changes, how does it help *anyone* – and why is it a problem when those who have self-sorted in response to these differences react in protest? (Perhaps your point is that the Think Progresses of the world are advancing a story about the value of these days to the people who had them available that isn;t supported by how people actually feel about them. If so, and that’s true, then I accept that point. But I think people actually do feel this way about these days still in some quarters, particularly in the parts of the working world where people had previously gone to preserve them.)

      It’s almost as if you’re saying that, because there was not enough protest for everyone who had to work holidays in the past, you want everyone to agree that holidays themselves are a thing of the past, not something to be concerned with, even though large numbers of people in more comfortable jobs, outside of some industries, still do get them off and celebrate in a traditional way. Where people in working-class jobs (to say nothing of white-collar jobs) now lose the option to be away from work on holidays, this is just something that’s to be accepted given that so many others have had to suffer (or not suffer, as the case may be), though the same thing with no one speaking up for them in the past.

      But in the past, those workplaces that did preserve this tradition still existed. This gave workers as a class more choice: if you want holidays off, you’d try more for these jobs; if you don’t care about that as much, you’d try for those others. Seeing the practice of offering those days off dwindle away just erodes choice for everyone. What’s not to protest in that? It’s just one symptom of the falling bargaining power of people who work for a living, but it’s one that some people care about. Fighting to preserve this option where it has existed helps everyone – those who want to work the shifts can, and those who don’t, don’t have to. Or, if the concept of valuing holidays is preserved as a trend in the workforce, it’s an advantage for those who don;t care as much – their availability on holidays is something that would open up to them options that those who want to be with family will have to forego.

      More generally, the erosion of cultural limits on work expectations like this are not things that people in the working class should argue to each other that we should give up on unilaterally in solidarity with those who were always not protected by them. That hurts everybody. Rather, the thing to do is to say, “Look, here’s this cultural tradition that we, the working class, have always acknowledged can’t fully stand up to the demands of the modern marketplace. Hospitals have to be open; planes will fly; hell, we even acknowledge that people like to go to movies on Christmas these days. That’s fine. But there had always been places to work for people who do want to preserve these days, even if they have to give something up to work there. Now, it seems, we’re being asked to give up those places as well – it’s looking like the whole cultural limit is going to come down. Well, you can’t have it without giving us something in return.” That’s the basic dynamic we want to put into effect here, in my estimation. But it doesn’t work at all if working class people in the group who chose to work in jobs where holidays were not protected are going to tell the working class people who chose to work in jobs where they were protected that, now that even where it has been protected the protection is eroding, they (or those who advocate for them) should be quiet about it, since after all, they merely happened to have a nice thing that lots of other people never had. That really harms whatever exchange value those last outposts’ acceding to the accelerating deterioration of this norm could have for the whole. At best, it just hurts their own attempts to exchange value for value in acceding to this new expectation. After all, some of those people might have chosen that work over other work they might have preferred for other reasons just because it was one of the last places they thought they could count on having (some) holidays off. Or, in other words, not everyone who went through the same kind of thing you did as a kid necessarily will have reacted the same way, concluding that holidays are going the way of the dodo, and you might as well go along. They may have sought out a way to preserve the tradition for themselves, giving up something in order to be able to do so. At the very least we shouldn’t do things to devalue what they (may have) made those sacrifices for (as people value things differently), and thus harm their ability to get something of what they gave up back when they finally are forced to give up what they sought out because of people voting with their feet.

      Holidays aren’t special in this regard – they’re like any other worker protection that gets eroded by economic forces. Holidays seem special in some ways, but in reality all worker protections have their own special set of attributes and dynamics, but they all work alike in this way I’ve talked about: different worker value them differently, and they tend to apply differently across industries because of the nature of different industries. If we always focus on that variance as a reason why worker group A is making too big a deal out of negotiated or customary protection X because it’s less important to us and we’ve never enjoyed it in our industry like they did in theirs, the effect of that will be to accelerate the deterioration of all those protections for everyone. It’s better for all working people to support each other in advocating for the terms of work that everyone in her or his own situation values. That’s a better dynamic to put in place.Report

  22. Avatar Kazzy says:

    We were in a hotel on Friday and Saturday night. When we arrived, a sign was still hanging indicating that the hotel was opting to send home most of its housekeeping staff for the holiday and that currently occupied rooms would not be cleaned on Thursday (new arrivals could expect a clean room). While this seemed to be a kind gesture by the hotel management, I wonder if they discounted the nightly rate for Thanksgiving. And I would have been a bit upset had I been an overnight guest on Thanksgiving and not been informed of this policy in advance.Report

  23. Avatar E.C. Gach says:

    “Of course he was fired for it! He cost the company money! If our head medical assistant took a poll of her colleagues and, based on the result, tried to close our office, we’d fire her, too. (She is far too sensible to do such a silly thing.)”

    Before analogizing between hospitals and WalMart I think it’s important to demonstrate which similarities make such an analogy meaningful.

    “Employers make their employees work on holidays all the time.”

    Is an observation, not evidence for or against the practice.

    “Showing up for work on those days is not optional, unless an employee chooses to take a vacation day.”

    Many workers, especially low wage workers in service industries, do not have vacation days.

    “Our employees are paid well, we value them, and we do our best to be good employers.”

    This is demonstrably untrue in any number of cases regarding Walmart.

    “If we were less profitable, we would likely not be able to consider raises for employees, new hires or holiday bonuses. Those latter things seem on balance worth the small risk we take with regard to employee satisfaction by staying open, and so far so good.”

    This case study has what, exactly, to do with low-wage, part-time workers?

    “But I don’t get what specific policies that he would like to have enacted. As a relatively liberal guy, I certainly want to see workers treated well. But as a partner in a small business, I’d fight like hell any law that mandated closure on certain days.”

    Mandate that all workers be given a minimum number of vacation days, the number of which and how it’s calculated being negotiable. Mandate holiday pay for hourly earners required to work on those days, etc. I think we wouldn’t have much trouble brainstorming a few others.

    “But they then have to keep in mind that any mandatory holiday pay enacted would impact profits in a manner similar to being closed, with all the considerations I note above. I know arguing in favor of profitable business means they’re going to come shred my “good liberal” card any minute now (I donate to NPR, I swear!), but profits let companies do all kinds of good things. We mustn’t play too fast and loose with them.”

    This is the hostage situation: don’t protest the circumstances of your employment too much, or else you’ll just make things worse, on average, for everyone involved. This the bottom-line most businesses take against unionization, and/or certain requests unions make–that anything given to the employees will necessarily ruin the business, forcing either layoffs or a company wide closing.

    While you say Russell that you have no problem with employees at these companies protesting, complaining, or finding other employment, you seem to begrudge them these opportunities at their peril. So what is the real alternative then? Yea, your situation is shitty, but it could get a whole lot shittier.

    My point in the original post, contra Yglesias, and apparently Tod and others, is that while systemic conditions like this require systemic reforms (mandated PTO days, stimulus spending to increase aggregate demand, etc.) those reforms aren’t just magically going to happen–they require organizing, coalition building, campaigning, social movements, etc. So while pushing back against employer mission creep on the holiday front seems on its face to be a distraction, a side-show, my contention is that it necessarily goes hand-in-hand with pushing for these larger, structural changes.

    Not only is the ballot box not the first and only means of reform, but it’s an avenue that won’t yield success unless their is mobilization along multiple, interlocking fronts.

    “As someone who has worked in hospitals open 365 days a year, myself often on holidays, I was bound to be skeptical of this particular woe. Yes, hospitals provide a necessary service, but that may not come as much comfort to the low-wage employees who are made to show up to deliver food trays, even if they’d rather not. And surely we’re not going to make businesses pass some ill-defined moral test of public good to determine if they have a right to be open. Why is providing shoppers with a chance to shop (confounding as I may find it) not good enough reason for a retailer to unlock its doors?”

    I really don’t know how this ever became about Big Brother forcing people to NOT work on holidays. It’s a bizarre parallel to the move in minimum wage debates where critics position the government as being the one forcing workers NOT to be able to make less money (another can of worms, but I think the hostage situation of wage floors–that if you make me pay you more, I’ll have to fire people and so unemployment will increase–is related, in that the lack of full employment must necessarily be addressed in tandem, and trying to weigh the pros and cons of policies like this in isolation is spurious).

    “I suspect the “Black Thanksgiving” criticism has taken hold as a proxy for Wal-mart’s larger problems as an employer.”

    Indeed, though not as a proxy, but as an additional cost that helps push worker resentment toward the tipping point.

    “Working on Thanksgiving (or Christmas, as I’m slated to do next year) is no fun, to be sure. However, that doesn’t make it wrong.”

    Just out of curiosity, because reading the post I wasn’t completely clear on it, do you get holiday pay (time and a half or something) and could you take off if you requested it?

    I know for instance that my mother, who works as a nurse at a hospital, makes time and 3/4 working on the holiday. Of course, that was a benefit negotiated by her union.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to E.C. Gach says:

      Mandate that all workers be given a minimum number of vacation days, the number of which and how it’s calculated being negotiable. Mandate holiday pay for hourly earners required to work on those days, etc. I think we wouldn’t have much trouble brainstorming a few others.

      This does not seem substantially likely to shift the economic pressures and social expectations that retail stores open for commerce, and thus require employees, on Thanksgiving or other holidays. If the goal is to create more opportunities for people to enjoy this holiday with their families, then overtly legislate towards that goal. For legislation is what you advocate here.Report

      • One thing worth adding – while I was surprised that holiday pay is not legally mandated for non-exempt (ie, hourly) employees working on Thanksgiving, it appears that just about every retail employer of which I’m aware does in fact provide some form of significant additional compensation for coming to work on Thanksgiving, with the minimum benefit appearing to be payment of time and a half.* Walmart included (they provide an “extra day’s pay” based on hours worked in the preceding weeks; I’ve seen an allegation that they intentionally cut hours prior to the holiday to minimize the amount of “extra day’s pay,” but this is a poorly sourced allegation that ignores the fact that the weeks just prior to Thanksgiving are likely relatively less busy, as people hold off on shopping until Black Friday sales hit).

        *Indeed, the seeming near-uniformity of bonus pay for holiday workers was why I had (wrongly) assumed that it was legally mandated.Report

      • Avatar Ethan Gach in reply to Burt Likko says:

        As in the prior post, the point is to shift the balance of power.

        If I have X number of PTO days per year, and want to take off Thanksgiving, I can. If I want to use those days elsewhere, and work on that day instead, then I can do that.

        To the degree that the store is “pressured” to stay open on a given day, the burden is on them to make it appealing enough for people to voluntarily work it since they could easily choose not to.Report

      • @ethan-gach The thing is that, contrary to assertions being made here, the vast majority of major retailers do in fact seem to offer quite a bit of additional incentives to work on Thanksgiving.

        And of course retailers restrict when employees can take off in November and December – it’s their busiest season by far, and an all hands on deck type of situation; not even a union would expect to get a meaningful amount of schedule flexibility during that period of time. As it is retailers have to hire boatloads of seasonal workers just for that period of time in order to meet demand.

        I repeat: the problem here isn’t how horribly employers treat employees (though that is surely a problem in no shortage of other instances); it’s our cultural obsession with buying as many Christmas gifts as possible.Report

      • Avatar Ethan Gach in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Mark, I’m looking to explore that issue in another post. There’s an impulse among lefties to pity the consumers who fuel developments like this because really, they’re just doing it as a result of 1.) capitalism and 2.) to paper over how little earning power, freedom, fulfillment they have in their own lives, so much of which is taken up with work (this is a crude and incomplete but I think relatively accurate summation of the sentiment).

        I am much less keen to let excessive material consumption (of luxury products) off the hook. As it pertains to the left, if there were a switch that could be pulled that would simply implement all of their agenda, reshaping capitalism in fundamental ways, that would be one thing–but none of this happens in a vacuum, and in so far as we are all workers and consumers, we can all organize and push our agendas in multiple ways.

        Part of the perniciousness of the current situation though (again, as a lefty) is how much the role of laborer seems directly opposed to the role of consumer.Report

    • *sigh* I’m going to have to do so much scrolling, aren’t I?

      “Employers make their employees work on holidays all the time.”

      Is an observation, not evidence for or against the practice.

      Indeed. But if something has been going for a lengthy period of time without particular complaint or public outcry, it does seem reasonable to raise the question why the outcry now?

      Many workers, especially low wage workers in service industries, do not have vacation days.

      But that’s neither unique to Wal-mart, nor new, nor specifically related to working on holidays.

      This is demonstrably untrue in any number of cases regarding Walmart.

      Then focus on those cases, not the requirement that workers show up on Thanksgiving, which is a separate issue.

      This case study has what, exactly, to do with low-wage, part-time workers?

      It provides an example of the costs that would entail giving those workers the day off or raising their pay. Argue for those changes if you like, but they won’t occur in a vacuum, nor can you stipulate that they will only apply to employers you don’t like. Mandating them will make all compliant employers less profitable, and businesses use profits to do things like give raises, hire new people, disburse bonuses, make capital investments, etc. You may think it’s worth the cost, and perhaps you can argue convincingly so. But there is, in fact, a cost and a potentially considerable one, not just to fat cat Wal-mart board members, but to other workers and to smaller employers, too.

      Mandate that all workers be given a minimum number of vacation days, the number of which and how it’s calculated being negotiable. Mandate holiday pay for hourly earners required to work on those days, etc. I think we wouldn’t have much trouble brainstorming a few others.

      Great! See above re: the costs of those interventions.

      This the bottom-line most businesses take against unionization, and/or certain requests unions make–that anything given to the employees will necessarily ruin the business, forcing either layoffs or a company wide closing.

      Does that render the argument untrue, then?

      Yea, your situation is shitty, but it could get a whole lot shittier.

      I would rephrase that, in the specific case of working on holidays, “your situation is not uniquely shitty.”

      Indeed, though not as a proxy, but as an additional cost that helps push worker resentment toward the tipping point.

      But surely I can’t be the only person generally sympathetic to the broader complaints whose response to this specific rallying point was as I describe in the OP.

      And I’m a salaried employee, so I don’t get any hourly compensation. I only mentioned myself to point out that having to work on holidays goes all the way up the pay scale, and is not a unique burden to low-wage unskilled workers. And your mom may get those adjustments to her pay, but another commenter who works in the hospital on holidays does not. I don’t know if every worker in every hospital where I’ve been employed makes those adjustments, nor do I know about the person taking tickets at the theater or serving meals at the restaurants that happen to be open.Report

      • @russell-saunders
        Your observation that state mandated paid leave/holidays is not cost free is correct. However, here’s a list of other OECD countries whose businesses manage the cost: France, UK, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Austria, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Belgium, New Zealand, Ireland, Australia, Greece, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada, and Japan.*

        I’m confident that businesses in these countries manage to do things you cite: “give raises, hire new people, disburse bonuses, make capital investments”. Why shouldn’t we expect US businesses to adjust accordingly?


      • I’m not saying we shouldn’t. I just want to make sure we don’t pretend the solution to the problem of making workers work on holidays (if one accepts that it is a problem in the first place) won’t have costs that may, in their turn, adversely affect workers, too.Report

      • Russell, do you not believe it is ridiculous to analogize between your case as a highly skilled, and highly educated professional, and someone stocking shelves at Walmart?

        Also, you’re right Russell, Walmart is just on the verge of being unprofitable. In seriousness though, what evidence do you present to show that those *would* be the costs?

        Do we agree though, that all of this is the result of the relative bargaining power, perceived and real, between employer and employee? And that if the status quo is not feasible (at least to me it’s not), then that necessarily requires establishing a new balance of power?Report

      • Well, you’d think that a highly skilled and highly educated professional would have the leverage to say “that national holiday? Yeah, I’m going to spend the day drunk. Don’t expect me in.” (drops microphone)

        As it turns out, there are a lot of slaves to the rhythm.Report

      • @ethan-gach

        Russell, do you not believe it is ridiculous to analogize between your case as a highly skilled, and highly educated professional, and someone stocking shelves at Walmart?

        Of course that would be ridiculous. That’s why I made no such analogy. I do think it is reasonable to analogize between the low-wage workers who must show up to deliver trays of food to patients, mop the floors, etc. and those stocking shelves at Wal-mart.

        And I mention myself because [all together now, everyone who’s been trying to make the same point!] the particular issue of having to work on holidays is not class-specific. As I stipulated in one of my many comments, the question is really about whether workers are adequately compensated for their time. From my perspective, working on holidays distracts from rather than highlights that problem.

        Also, you’re right Russell, Walmart is just on the verge of being unprofitable. In seriousness though, what evidence do you present to show that those *would* be the costs?

        Well, let me answer your question with my own question — how will you craft a Wal-mart specific solution. If Wal-mart and Target are uniquely predatory on their workers, how will you confine your policy solution to them? How will you keep it from harming smaller businesses?

        And what evidence do I need to show that those would be the costs? You’d get the same answer from anyone who has any kind of management or fiduciary role in any business anywhere! Without profits to reinvest in the company, how do you think companies expand? Yes, profits are often disbursed as dividends to investors (that’s why people invest in businesses!), but quite often go back into the business to keep it thriving. Making those decisions is why corporations have boards of directors and such.

        Finally, I grant that you consider the status quo unacceptable. I would respond that focusing on the holiday work requirement as the part of the status quo that cries out for change is ill-advised.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Russell Saunders says:


        How many of the employees being asked to work on these holidays are seasonal hires? A bit of Googling tells me Walmart planned to hire 55K holiday employees this year. Do these people — explicitly hired to help meet holiday demand — demand special protections?Report

      • “Do these people — explicitly hired to help meet holiday demand — demand special protections?”

        I don’t understand your question. Why wouldn’t they have the same protections as any part time hire?Report

      • “the particular issue of having to work on holidays is not class-specific.”

        But it is! Unless you think you have no professional maneuverability, could not have ever been anything but a doctor, and could never work anywhere else beside your current employer.

        The point is that when you are an unskilled worker making just above minimum wage, if that, you have no where else to go. You can’t make lateral moves into other industries, re-educate or re-train. To the extent that those things are achievable though, I would strongly, strongly suggest that they are more possible for someone like you or I. And I think that has everything to do with class.

        Re: costs, the point isn’t do they exist or not, but do they exist at that level–would they be x, as in would they be crippling, etc.

        I have no doubt that paying an employee more, costs more. One does tend to equal one, but that doesn’t tell me whether paying a larger bonus for holiday wages, or giving paid time off, will necessarily bankrupt the company or result in mass layoffs.

        And mass layoffs are a separate issue–the fact that there exists a shortage of well-paying labor in the United States is a problem that effects everyone.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Russell Saunders says:


        Because they are hired with the explicit understanding that they are helping with the holiday load, including working on the holidays themselves.

        My wife took on work as a seasonal employee at Pottery Barn. When she signed on, they laid out quite explicitly that she would be expected to work nights, weekends, and at least one of the major holidays. This was an explicit term of her employment, the primary reason she was hired, in fact. So should she have been able to then turn around and say, “It is ridiculous you want me to work on Christmas Eve”?Report

      • @kazzy would it have been ridiculous if they asked her to work 46 hours one week and not pay her any overtime?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Russell Saunders says:


        It would depend on the terms of her contract. If she was contracted to work 12 hours a week then, yes, that would be ridiculous.

        I know people who work in finance who put in 80+ hour weeks during busy seasons without overtime. Are you going to protest on their behalf?Report

      • Well that helps clarify things–if all that something needs to be Kosher is in a contract, we won’t agree on much.

        And yes, I’ll gladly protest on behalf of people who work 80 weeks and are not appropriately compensated for it.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Russell Saunders says:


        My ex-girlfriend worked in audit accounting. During the “busy season”, she would regularly put in 12-14 hour days during the weekend and work at least one weekend. She did not receive overtime. She received her full contracted salary (approximately $50K for someone fresh out of college in 2005). It seemed nuts to me. And while she was often frustrated or exhausted by the long hours, she kept going to work. Because she wanted to work in audit accounting and wanted to work for a big firm and wanted to live and work in Manhattan and such was the cost of doing so. This was an intelligent, savvy woman.

        Yet you would see fit to tell her that she could not enter into such an arrangement because… why… exactly? What do you know better about her situation — her goals, her dreams, her abilities, her limits — than she that you are better qualified to dictate the terms of her employment?Report

      • “that she could not enter into such an arrangement because… why… exactly?”

        I think I dropped my spectacles, where did I say that again?Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to Russell Saunders says:

        I’m thinking that what’s got Ethan all upset is the nature of the employer-employee relationship.
        And I don’t think he’s altogether wrong about that.
        One thing I’ve found in researching forum selection clauses is that many jurisdictions recognize them as unenforceable in instances where the contract is “adhesive” or “unconscionable” (same thing; different choice of wording in various jurisdictions).
        From a quick search:

        Our court previously defined adhesion contracts in Swain:

        In Missouri, an adhesion contract, as opposed to a negotiated contract, has been described as a form contract created and imposed by a stronger party upon a weaker party on a ‘take this or nothing basis,’ the terms of which unexpectedly or unconscionably limit the obligations of the drafting party. ? Adhesion contracts usually involve unequal bargaining power of a large corporation versus an individual and are often presented in pre-printed form contracts. ? But they are not inherently sinister and automatically unenforceable. ? Because the bulk of contracts signed in this country are form contracts-a natural concomitant of our mass production-mass consumer society-any rule automatically invalidating adhesion contracts would be completely unworkable. ? Rather, our courts seek to enforce the reasonable expectations of the parties. ? Only those provisions that fail to comport with those reasonable expectations and are unexpected and unconscionably unfair are unenforceable. ? Because standardized contracts address the mass of users, the test for ‘reasonable expectations’ is objective, addressed to the average member of the public who accepts such a contract, not the subjective expectations of an individual adherent.

        IIRC, Burt has an excellent post somewhere (that I’m unable to find at present) regarding marriage and the employer-employee relationship as other than true contract; the gist of which is that, even though we might refer to employment as a “contract,” it really isn’t.
        To take that one step further, considerations of adhesion and unconscionability are invalid in those areas; rightly or wrongly.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Russell Saunders says:

        I have no doubt that paying an employee more, costs more. One does tend to equal one, but that doesn’t tell me whether paying a larger bonus for holiday wages, or giving paid time off, will necessarily bankrupt the company or result in mass layoffs.

        The problem I have when profits are introduced into discussions is that they’re looked at in absolute terms. A typical discussion in its simplest form may go like this:

        Target makes a profit of X. Certainly, if we can increase the labor costs by Y, this should be acceptable. The company won’t go bankrupt and employees have increased purchasing power.

        This is somewhat similar to Ethan’s comment. I’ll go through what I think the costs are.

        First, mathematically speaking, the share price decreases because a reduction in profit by X-Y reduces free cash flow. The only plausible way this price reduction is offset is if investors apply a lower cost of capital threshold to the company. However, if profits are reduced, that won’t happen. To people that would argue that increased wages can in turn be spent on the company’s products, while it may theoretically be true, that information will never be reflected in an asset valuation unless it is an established fact.

        Second, companies compete in the capital markets for the cheapest possible sources of debt and equity capital. To Russell’s point, not only do strong profits provide companies the ability to expand but they also provide the companies access to capital. Investors that target given industries know the players and evaluate the companies within their peer groups based on a number of key financial metrics based on a number of factors. If those metrics fall behind the peer group, investors are going to be more inclined to invest in other firms unless they are compensated accordingly. This increases the cost to companies.

        Third, a company does not need to approach a bankruptcy or distress situation for reduced profit levels to trigger a credit rating downgrade. Reductions in profit levels reduce the amount of cash available to cover interest on corporate debt obligations. Once that ratio of profit to interest goes below certain thresholds, credit ratings downgrades are triggered. When that happens, the cost to raise debt increases which, similar to what I explained in my second point, in order for companies to expand, the profit thresholds are going to need to be much higher and could make otherwise feasible projects unfeasible.

        I tried to explain all of this using as much non-technical language as I could. The capital side of the equation is rarely discussed here (at least at a level I find acceptable) and when it does get discussed, the focus is on profits rather than on cost of capital concerns.

        I’ll leave it at this for now. I can elaborate on all of this but I’d rather to do with a focus on specific comments.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Russell Saunders says:

        There’s also the issue that just because a company has a profit this year, or every year for the past umpteen years, it doesn’t mean they’ll be so profitable in the future. Previously successful firms do fail, sometimes quietly declining, sometimes imploding spectacularly. The argument that “they have big profits, so they ought to share more of them” assumes those profits as constant, when they’re actually variable.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Russell Saunders says:


        That’s also correct. What I also didn’t mention was something very applicable to publicly traded companies: earnings calls. What I’ve read on these pages in the past as suggestions are the kinds of things the Wall Street analysts would push back against. Right or wrong, going against what the analysts want to see is not the smartest course of action unless you want to make the shorts happy.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Russell Saunders says:

        Right or wrong, going against what the analysts want to see is not the smartest course of action unless you want to make the shorts happy.

        Charles Lindblom termed the phenomena, the market as prison. (Curiously enough, I was just re-reading this classic article a few days ago.)

        [MikeS: fixed the link]Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Russell Saunders says:

        Right or wrong, going against what the analysts want to see is not the smartest course of action unless you want to make the shorts happy

        Which is like saying “Right or wrong, contradicting the Pope on astronomy is not the smartest course of action unless you’re planning to enjoy a nice, leisurely house arrest.” It’s very unfortunate, but it’s true,Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Russell Saunders says:


        It’s very unfortunate, but it’s true

        We had many discussions about this very topic when I was a graduate finance student. The “long-term” outlook is the time between now and the next quarterly earnings call.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to E.C. Gach says:


      My wife is a nurse and has worked on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays. At no point did she receive additional compensation. It was just understood that this came with the gig and as the low woman on the totem pole, she was more likely to draw the inferior lot.

      As to all your claims of hostage-taking… while I am on the record as being concerned about a culture that seems to value profit-making above all else, it seems unfair to insist that a company referring back to the very natural consequences that come from additional pay to employees is and must be something insidious… some form of hostage taking.

      It is not a direct employer/employee relationship, but my wife and I pay a woman to provide childcare for our son. If she were to boost her rates beyond what we could afford, would it be “hostage taking” for us to say, “We may have to find care elsewhere”? What if it wasn’t beyond what we could afford but was simply more than we wanted to pay?Report

      • Avatar Ethan Gach in reply to Kazzy says:

        Where have I said that Walmart, or companies like it, are insidious?


        “It was just understood that this came with the gig and as the low woman on the totem pole, she was more likely to draw the inferior lot.”

        That’s unfortunate, but I take it she doesn’t really care, at least not enough to seek employment elsewhere. As I said in my comment, it’s a benefit the union fought for, and which the hospital obliged, because they need people to work the holiday, and thus need to make it desirable to do so.

        Since it’s a day that many seem to be fine forgoing pay on, the scarcity necessarily inflates the wages of those who eventually do decide to clock in.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        Referring to it as a “hostage situation” are pretty choice words. Again, I ask: Would I be creating a “hostage situation” if I acted as I did in the proposed hypothetical regarding childcare?

        “That’s unfortunate, but I take it she doesn’t really care, at least not enough to seek employment elsewhere.”

        Of course she cared. She hated it. She would have loved not to work on Thanksgiving or Christmas. But that wasn’t a choice for her.

        How is her situation any different than a Walmart employee? If they really cared, why not seek employment elsewhere?

        Again, your bleeding heart seems to only bleed for a select few. This is the second time now you’ve disregarded the circumstances of myself and my family because it didn’t fit your argument.Report

      • Avatar Ethan Gach in reply to Kazzy says:

        Kazzy, I don’t think that it is different. By all means, I encourage her or others at the hospital upset with the status quo to organize and push for reforms.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        What reforms would be reasonable? They can’t close. Additional pay? Where does that money come from? Many small hospitals operate with razor thin margins. Do they nudge everyone else’s wage down ever-so-much so they can pay holiday workers overtime? How would that go over with the staff as a whole?

        I should note that when she was doing bedside care, she was working in either a military hospital as an active duty service member or in a non-unionized hospital. And the reason she worked in a non-union hospital was because it was the only way for her to get a job. See, the local area had some hospitals close recently, meaning unionized nurses who lost their jobs were first-in-line for any openings at other unionized hospitals, regardless of qualification or experience. So my wife had zero shot of securing a job at a unionized hospital.

        So, please, in a bit more detail than offered here, please offer some advice for what people like her ought to do. Shaking fists yields minimal results. The world is far more complicated than it seems you realize.Report

      • Avatar Ethan Gach in reply to Kazzy says:

        According to your own account, there apparently is no alternative. Things are as good as they’ll get, and if they get any better, the hospital will have to close because it will be operating at a loss.

        I’m not really sure what you want me to say when you present a case in the form of, “there are no other options, so what are her other options?”Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        There are no other apparent options. Perhaps you know of some that are unapparent.

        Or, perhaps, there are indeed no other options and you are wrong to insist that things out to function in a different way. If you can’t provide an alternative given the context, than perhaps you are wrong, no?Report

      • Avatar Ethan Gach in reply to Kazzy says:

        @kazzy “If you can’t provide an alternative given the context, than perhaps you are wrong, no?”

        Wrong about what? I have no idea what we’re even talking about anymore.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        It seems that your argument is that things ought to be different than they are. That my wife shouldn’t have been expected to work on holidays at her standard pay rate. I’ve asked you to provide an alternative scenario that would seem better to you that properly accounts for the context in which the status quo exists.

        Can you do that? If not, then perhaps we’ve arrived at the optimal arrangement (for now, at least) and you are wrong to suggest that things ought to be different.Report

  24. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Big box retail stores are open and doing big sales on Labor Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and other holidays. I don’t hear anyone raising a stink about that. Same thing with a variety of other professions and industries, although we seem to be talking about retail with respect to this discussion.

    Why is Thanksgiving privileged over these other holidays, and if you are going to thus privilege Thanksgiving, then why would you turn a blind eye to naked corporate cupidity triumphing over the social honor due to laborers, veterans, and the families of fallen heroes? Or July 4 — lots of stores are doing business then too; does their greed indicate a disregard of patriotism?

    (This last point is an unfair rhetorical flourish, offered sarcastically for illustration purposes rather than as a sober question.)Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Burt Likko says:

      I suspect that Thanksgiving gets selected out for several reasons. Its the national spend time with your family and friends holiday in the United States, more so than Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and the 4th. A big communal meal is the central focus of the Thanksgiving celebration. Conservatives have harped that liberals are against family values for decades. Focusing on Thanksgiving gives liberals an opportunity to take the side of family values.

      There is also a big difference between the sales offered on other national holidays and the 4th. Thanksgiving shopping is ostensibly for the big gift giving holiday of the year and there is an aura of craziness around the sales of this time. As far as I know, we have no stories of panic and stampedes at Memorial Day weekend sales. People do not line up and camp out for Veteran’s Day sales. Thanksgiving shopping, whether on Thursday or Friday, is a different beast. The madness and more flagrantly crass commercialism of holiday shopping allows for easier symbolism and point making.

      As Ethan and Chris wrote, a lot of this is about labor rights more than anything else. Non-retail workers might have to work holidays but they tend to be paid better and treated better. Even if not given more money to work on holidays, they might be compensated in other ways. If working for an hourly wage, they might get time and half. The big box retailers, especially Wal Mart, have very poor records in this department and the average retail worker is getting normal wages.Report

    • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Because my family and friends that I’m thankful for are more important to me than my country. More important than my dignity as a laborer. More important than the Veterans who fought and died. More important than Abraham Lincoln or George Washington or Martin Luther King or Jesus. And that’s true for a whole lot of people besides me

      Because thanksgiving is an older and stronger tradition than any of the other holidays you mentioned. That’s why Thanksgiving gets privileged.

      Any other questions?Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Alan Scott says:

        Hey, don’t get me wrong, I love Thanksgiving too. @alan-scott ‘s explanation is stark in its honesty, as the question was stark in soliciting it. Although the Labor Day issue is one which I think bears closer examination, since it is balancing work and family obligations which lies is at the core of this OOTW.Report

  25. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Black Friday was a creation of the retail industry as a way to boost sales. The biggest shopping day of the year used to be the last Saturday before Christmas. But retailers wanted to extend the holiday season. So they basically created Black Friday out of nowhere. It was always a relatively busy day, but by branding it and marketing it, they created an EVENT. Likewise with “Cyber Monday”, another completely fabricated day by the retail industry.

    Unfortunately, Black Friday has come back to bite them in the ass. Not only because of the race to the bottom, but because of the fluctuating date of Thanksgiving. This year’s Black Friday was as late as it could be, meaning the holiday shopping season was shorter than ever. And because people now wait until Black Friday to begin their shopping, it meant fewer total days of shopping. And because of how Hanukkah fell, they missed out including Jews in the madness.

    My hunch is that we’ll see the retail industry move the “official” start of the shopping season ever earlier, eventually eschewing Thanksgiving and Black Friday all together. Why wait until as late as November 27th when you could just dub November 13th as “Thrifty Thirteen” and start the frenzy then?

    This is a very weird hill to die on.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

      “Black Friday” was what it was called behind the scenes loooong before it was ever called that in the papers.

      It was originally a term of derision. (Heck, the wikipedia says that the cops called it that (because of traffic issues) before the retailers did.)

      This is something that grew up organically.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

        The phrase arose from Philadelphia. Attendees of the annual Army/Navy showdown would descend on the city a day early and clog the streets. The cops would tell people, “Hey, it’s Black Friday, you don’t want to go downtown,” hoping to scare people away.

        It was always a big shopping day, but it wasn’t always the biggest or anything other than an extended weekend during the holiday season. I don’t know that the big retailers sat down in their secret underground lair and declared the official start of Black Friday as a marketing tactic. But there was clearly a shift wherein creating another special day seemed advantageous and the concept spread. Likewise with “Cyber Monday”, which we can probably trace the progression of far better.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Jaybird says:

        Huh. I had always been told that the name originates from the notion that it’s generally the day on which stores are expected to start turning a profit for the year, though Wikipedia tells me this is incorrect.

        In any event, while Wikipedia says I’m wrong and confirms the Philly origin of the term, it also says you’re Army-Navy game assumption is wrong, including with this link:

        Also this one:

  26. Avatar Shelley says:

    Let rich people work holidays if they want. If poor people must, triple their pay. It may give them a taste for what they deserve every day.Report

  27. Avatar Zack Byrnes says:

    Great post and interesting points. With some jobs, I think you just have to accept that you may be working on holidays when you send in your application. While I realize that not everyone has their pick of jobs and not everyone has tons of options, this is just unfortunately how the world is.Report

  28. NobAkimoto NobAkimoto says:

    Coming a bit late to this debate, but I have one particular question that kinda nags me when I see white collar people talk about “we have to work holidays, too!”

    Is your workload substantially increased for that particular holiday? Specifically for Russell: Does working on a holiday mean seeing three or four times as many patients, working extra hours and dealing with a higher level of pressure and stress for that particular day over others?

    I’m torn about the whole Black Thursday/Friday thing. I hate it, but it’s not my place to judge, and as a single, foreigner living in America, I’m reliant on services being open to me to eat on days like Thanksgiving or Christmas. So I rely on people working that day. But I also realize that the burden of working on holidays is substantially different for white collar workers in essential jobs as it is for service workers.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to NobAkimoto says:

      Depends on the type of white-collar job.

      If you are in systems, you often have to work nights, weekends and holidays, because these are the best times to maintain or upgrade systems, when users are less numerous; or, for example, and as ridiculous as it seems, there can be a HUGE amount of work that goes into getting a complex interconnected system to roll over correctly from say 2013 to 2014.

      I have worked many, many New Year’s overnighters, sometimes working 24-48 hours at a stretch (though with breaks interspersed). Not just missing out on celebrations with friends and family, but sleep-deprived as all hell to boot. One time a co-worker came in the day after Christmas and saw a programmer who’d been working all through Christmas to resolve a critical problem, and asked the programmer what he’d gotten for Christmas.

      He dully replied, “…well, I got to keep my job.”

      (To make that slightly less-Scroogish-sounding, the issue he was resolving was under his bailiwick and arguably he bore some responsibility for its occurrence in the first place).

      If you are salaried, this is all just an expected part of your job, there is no extra pay.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to NobAkimoto says:

      ER docs often see more people on the holidays, particularly because no other triage is open.
      That said, Black Friday is the start of HellMonth for Retail Workers.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to NobAkimoto says:

      Much of the work that I did at Global Conglomerate was system patching and monitoring and we had a heavier load of patches (see Glyph’s note above… easier to schedule downtimes when the building is closed anyway) and systems tended to crash about as often as they did during normal hours… maybe a bit less but memory sticks gonna die, CPUs gonna crap out no matter what.

      Also, the whole “Jaybird doesn’t have kids, have him cover for other people” thing resulted in a schedule of 2 8s, 2 12s, and 2 16’s one Christmas week. That was a nice paycheck… but a crappy week. The knowledge that it wasn’t as crazy as that one week we had in August or that other week we had in April or Y2K rollover was cold comfort.Report