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Friday, 15 November 2013 06:42

Big Retailers Make Low-Paid Workers Into Exploited Turkeys on Thanksgiving

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Ah Thanksgiving, that quintessential of US holidays when the warmth of family and appreciation for the bounty of our nation are celebrated.  The tantalizing and comforting aroma of turkey -- with all the trimmings -- lingers as we give thanks and bask in the warmth of those we love.

Some begin the groaning board meal with a prayer; some begin with secular thanks; and some don't have enough money for a proper holiday meal.  But this is the day that symbolizes the harvest, the fruit of one's labor, the emotional recognition of the value of work and life and family and friends.

Except that the creeping consumerism of American society has been encroaching upon Thanksgiving.  Last year some big box stores started "black Friday" by opening up on Thanksgiving eve.  That new retailing strategy is continuing in 2013, with K-Mart breaking a new regrettable milestone by throwing open its doors at 6 AM on turkey day.

That means that millions of workers will have their day of familial fesitivity interrrupted by having to clock in for low wage jobs that generally offer few benefits.  The lure of profits and consumers looking for "door buster" deals has grown so pernicious that hard-working stiffs can't even fully embrace the warmth of Thanksgiving anymore. 

It's becoming just another vehicle for monetizing the sacred and exploiting low-wage workers in worship of the golden calf.

Some stores, as Think Progress notes, are still resisting the tide of 24-hour commercialism:

Still, there are a handful of places — large and small, national and local — that are resisting the pressure in order to give their employees a real holiday.

“That’s one day that’s a family day,” an employee at the Charles Ro Supply Company, the country’s largest toy train store, said of its policy to remain closed on Thanksgiving Day. “Home life’s a little more important.”

Patagonia Head of Retail Marketing Vickie Achee explained the company’s decision to keep stores closed “so our associates can celebrate the holiday with their family/friends. This has been our tradition during our tenure in retail.”

Costco, Nordstrom, REI, Burlington Coat Factory, and American Girl also confirmed they’re closed on Thanksgiving.

But the tide of consumption continually erodes the soul of family and community, as what we buy, give and own becomes more and more who we are.

Don't expect the majority of retail America to hold off for many years.  Just as other holidays have succumbed to workers being called in to keep the cash registers ringing, so will the mythic heritage of Thanksgiving soon find the turkey replaced by the power of the almighty buck.

(Photo: Wikipedia)