Happy to see Black Friday strikes
by Daniel Gaddy
Nov 22, 2012 | 692 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Daniel Gaddy
Daniel Gaddy
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I bet the guy who first thought of opening a retail store at an ungodly hour on Black Friday fancied himself an innovator. I wonder, though, if he had any idea that the tactic would lead to stores opening at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day — as many will do this year.

It would appear that the 4 a.m. Black Friday sales were not early enough, and big-box retailers decided to crash a beloved American holiday to sniff out more profits.

It just so happens that workers with the biggest of big-box stores, Wal-Mart, plan to strike on Black Friday.

The retailer has a long history of providing the bare minimum of pay and benefits to its part-time and entry-level employees. And by giving those workers as little as they can, Wal-Mart’s leadership can have their payroll and benefits packages subsidized by state governments. You see, some Wal-Mart employees can work 40 hours a week and still qualify for SNAP benefits and Medicaid.

So in a sense, it’s not so much welfare for the worker as it is the company, which happens to be the world’s largest employer.

The workers who plan to strike on Friday are demanding a livable wage — $25,000 a year for full-time employees. They also want time off on days like Thanksgiving.

I was amazed to hear that Wal-Mart workers would actually be picketing. The company is notorious for being anti-union.

I can't help but wonder if it was the new Black Friday hours that brought the workers over the edge and prompted the strike.

My wife, Amber, has worked retail most of her adult life. And there have been many a Thanksgiving she couldn't enjoy because she had to worry about the horde of shoppers waiting for her at 4 a.m. the next day.

When she worked at such jobs, I tried to not complain about it, because (and you might not believe this, but) major retailers don’t value my opinion very much. And griping about the trend didn’t accomplish anything but to make my wife feel guilty.

To me, though, the whole concept of Black Friday, door buster sales is a deviation from traditional business ethics.

It wasn't too long ago that workers were considered part of a team, deserving of some consideration.

But it's hard to argue that you have respect for your workers when you require them to come in on Thanksgiving.

Nowadays, though, workers are expected to be grateful for whatever they have.

In the count-your-blessings sense, that's good advice. There are millions of people who would love the chance to work no matter what the holiday. But on the other hand, there's nothing more American than demanding decent pay for hard work.

Millions of people have been lifted out of poverty because we live in a country that allows unionization. And you’ll find no better example of that than Walker County.

It’s hard to imagine for people my age, but there was a time when coal miners broke their backs, poisoned their lungs and HOPED for a livable wage.

If you want to get an idea of the price those workers had to pay, check out the documentary film “Harlan County, USA.”

I don’t know if the Wal-Mart workers will have the same luck the UMWA folks did decades ago. I pray their struggle will not be as violent.

Regardless of the outcome, though, I’m glad to see the Black Friday strikes. I know, at the least, a few extra retail workers will get to sleep in.

Daniel Gaddy is a staff reporter for the Daily Mountain Eagle and a Walker County native. He can be reached at daniel.gaddy@mountaineagle.com