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San Diegans Boycott Stores Open On Thanksgiving Day

Above: Customers shop for electronics items during 'Black Friday' at a Best Buy store in San Diego.

Aired 11/29/13 on KPBS News.

Holiday shopping hours on Thanksgiving Day came at the expense of employees who missed out on time with their families.

More and more stores opened their doors for Black Friday shopping not on Friday, but on Thanksgiving Day. Big retailers like Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Toys R Us let shoppers get a jump on their holiday lists Thursday. But these holiday hours came at the expense of employees, who missed out on time with their families.

Kmart's decision to open at 6 a.m. Thanksgiving Day and stay open for 41 straight hours led to outrage among some consumers, who posted on social media that people should boycott the store for keeping its employees away from their families.

Some San Diegans told KPBS in a Public Insight Network questionnaire that they refused to shop on Thanksgiving Day and that they will boycott stores that were open on Thanksgiving.

"That is the problem with this country, putting money before family," said Pamela Ricci, a San Diego accountant. "Stores are opening on a traditional family holiday to make money on the next traditional family holiday. Shame on every store that is open before 8 a.m. on Black Friday."

Ricci said she will boycott any store that opened its doors on Thanksgiving Day.

"I will gladly pay more for an item at a store that respected the holiday and allowed their employees to be home with their families," she said.

And Ricci is not alone. A HuffPost/YouGov poll found that 62 percent of Americans think businesses should be closed on Thanksgiving so workers can have the day off.

Even the pope weighed in to criticize consumer culture. In his first major written work since assuming the papacy, Pope Francis called capitalism "a new tyranny" and said world leaders should be doing more to fight poverty.

But for other locals, working on holidays is necessary.

Gabriela Dow runs her own communications consulting business and said she will work holidays during an emergency.

"If there is an issue, on any day of the year, like a media emergency—water pipe burst, or like in 2008 when my company's data center was flooded in the Cedar Rapids disaster—then I am on the job for as long as it takes to complete the work," she said.

Dow also points out that a recent study found that by 2020, more than 40 percent of the workforce will be freelancers, contractors or temporary workers. That means "issues like paid holiday or set schedules will no longer be an issue," she said.

Suzanne Taylor, a mental health counselor, also worked on Thanksgiving to treat her patients.

"I know that my clients need the services every day of the week, not just when it's convenient for us," she said. "They're people that need help with their medications, people that need us to check on them to make sure that they're stable. A lot of our clients don't have a lot of support, so it's important for us to be that for them."

Taylor has temporary employee status, so she isn't paid overtime for working holidays and would not have drawn a salary if she'd taken Thanksgiving off.

Still, Taylor says while she was willing to work, she doesn't think retail employees should be forced to come in on holidays. Unlike her patients, she says the holiday shopping could wait a day.

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Avatar for user 'lucasoconnor'

lucasoconnor | November 29, 2013 at 8:46 a.m. ― 3 years, 4 months ago

I don't think anyone is suggesting that door busters on video games at 6am on Thanksgiving Day is equivalent to providing health care or responding to a flood. Which is exactly the point.

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Avatar for user 'VSSanDiego'

VSSanDiego | November 29, 2013 at 10:50 a.m. ― 3 years, 4 months ago

Thanks KPBS for covering this story. While most media outlets are giddy over more and earlier shopping, there is a complete denial of the burden it places on the employees and their families. As you stated, majority of americans, and even the Pope, prefer that just a few days be left free from the "tyranny" of capitalism.
I do think that you missed the mark by comparing the minimum wage workers being required to work by their employers to self-employed or those in healthcare, police, etc. Its an obvious stretch to compare these scenarios. Having to work in an emergency or public service is different than having to work to feed our insatiable appetite for material goods.
I think the boycott is a great idea. Holidays are an opportunity to spend time with loved ones and appreciate family values and traditions. What are we teaching our children by leaving them to go buy stuff, and requiring employees to leave their families so that we can buy it a day earlier for a dollar less? No thanks giving in this scenario...

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | November 29, 2013 at 11:04 a.m. ― 3 years, 4 months ago

The bigger issue is corporations like Walmart destroying American manufacturing, small businesses, and the ideal of fair work for fair pay and benefits. That aside of their relentless in-your-face crass consumerism to buy more Chinese made junk.

But this bigger story is the Pope calling capitalism "a new tyranny".

What? Wow! Why isn't THAT a headline story?

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Avatar for user 'IAmATVJunkie'

IAmATVJunkie | November 29, 2013 at 12:52 p.m. ― 3 years, 4 months ago

I'm one of those people. No shopping in any store that was open yesterday, and not just for the Christmas season but for all of 2014 as well.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | November 29, 2013 at 1:45 p.m. ― 3 years, 4 months ago

Not only am I not supporting stores open yesterday, I don't support Wal-Mart on a permanent basis.

I have not shopped there in well over a decade, and I ask my friends and family to do the same.

Tomorrow is an AMEX sponsored "shop local" day.

I say shop local EVERY DAY.

And this comes down to a fundamental lifestyle decision.

Who do we want to be as a country?

One with a work-life balance, one that enjoys the benefits of capitalism but also appreciates slowing down every once in awhile and actually taking time to enjoy life?

America already has far few public holidays and more rigorous business hours than European countries and many other countries around the globe.

And now we want to turn our few and precious public holidays into giant greedy material-centered pig-fests!?

It's quite a shame.

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Avatar for user 'Grahma2'

Grahma2 | November 29, 2013 at 2:31 p.m. ― 3 years, 4 months ago

While I agree with the sentiments stated here, especially toward mega giant stores, are we not being a bit hypocritical to criticize the K-Marts, Walmarts, and Targets when we still expect gas stations, 7-Elevens, and grocery stores to be open for those "critical" forgotten items for the Thanksgiving table? What about restaurant workers, movie theater attendants, and all the other folks who would like to spend the holiday with their families? Does the answer lie in paying people a living wage, whether they are full time or temporary, with a couple of mandatory paid holidays in there somewhere? Or, as in the recently documented case of Walmart, not fudging with worker hours so they are actually paid a true bonus wage for holidays.

It was not so long ago, that many states had so called Blue Laws, based on Christian religious practice, that required all businesses be closed on Sundays, regardless of when or if the owner observed the Sabbath. Such laws are changing and so is observance of the many Federal holidays that were a prominent part of my childhood. Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Lincoln and Washington's Birthdays are now combined into one President's day - all of these and many more are only observed by Federal workers, banks and the stock. Is it time for us to acknowledge that Thanksgiving is not really a national holiday any more but merely the official start of the Christmas shopping season? And as such, it is just one more opportunity for retailers to Sell, Sell, Sell.

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Avatar for user 'Claire Trageser'

Claire Trageser, KPBS Staff | November 29, 2013 at 6:22 p.m. ― 3 years, 4 months ago

Thanks all for your comments. The story isn't meant to compare workers at retail stores like Wal-Mart to people in health care or other jobs that require working on holidays (including journalists), but just to show that some San Diegans have to work for a variety of reasons.

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Avatar for user 'Anon11'

Anon11 | November 29, 2013 at 8:11 p.m. ― 3 years, 4 months ago

I'm sorry but no one is forcing three employees to work. They are free to leave and find employment elsewhere. This is the nature of the business they chose to accept a paycheck from.

People such as myself don't have any ties to holidays like thanksgiving and Christmas. I don't celebrate them more than any other day. Why should employees who do acknowledge these holidays be granted the privilege of guaranteed days off? Do I get to acknowledge my own holidays and get privileges from them? Nope. So I don't feel anyone else should either. Otherwise it would be discriminatory.

If people cared about these poor employees, they would boycott. But most Americans I know can't put their money where their mouth is.

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Avatar for user 'Anon11'

Anon11 | November 29, 2013 at 8:14 p.m. ― 3 years, 4 months ago

*three = these

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