In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, amid the commercials announcing Black Friday shopping as early as after dinner or even late morning on Thanksgiving Day, the debate has been whether stores should open at all. Some stores take the moral high ground that employees should have at least one day off to spend time with their families. Others are quick to let you know that before your turkey is digested, their doors are open and sales associates are waiting for you with what you want –and usually what you weren’t even looking for.
We can all understand that working on Thanksgiving is a drag. How many of us are heart-broken when we hear that somebody won’t be home with their kids all day Thanksgiving or that we might miss seeing a relative at the dinner table because she has to work? We wish that every business would close all day and let everybody have a day of rest. But some stores need the business and other owners of others calculate that they simply want the profits that will come from opening on a holiday.
We can all understand that working on Black Friday can be a drag, especially for parents who might like a day with their children. How many of us are heart-broken when we hear that a worker won’t be home with their kids all day Thanksgiving or that we might miss seeing a relative at the dinner table because she has to work?
What if the store is banking on Black Friday to keep afloat in these precarious times? As much as we sympathize with the goal of families’ enjoying holidays together, we have to acknowledge that having a job that requires you to work on a holiday is better than not having a job at all. An employer who makes the decision to open on Thanksgiving may well be the employer who is able to provide more long-term jobs than a seemingly more compassionate employer.
As complicated as this is, one lawmaker believes that the government should tell business how to handle the matter of opening on Thanksgiving. Instead of banning businesses from opening, she proposes that stores that do open be required to pay workers double the wages. It is reverse psychology meant to hit retailers’ bottom lines, which she thinks will lead them to think twice about opening on holidays.
The Sacramento Bee reports:
As more and more retailers and restaurants remain open on what have historically been off days, said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, workers deserve to earn extra. She plans to unveil a bill that would require additional pay, a policy she settled on in lieu of seeking to bar stores outright from opening on the holidays.
“I’ve watched how the retailers and restaurateurs continue to expand their hours and open up on these holidays that are traditionally family holidays,” Gonzalez said. “What people are being called in to do now is a real slap in the face of family values, frankly.”
“This is not life and death,” Gonzalez said. “This is consumerism.”
It won’t be Gonzalez’s first foray into expanding workers’ benefits. Last year she successfully pushed through landmark legislation guaranteeing California workers up to three days a year of paid sick leave, garnering enough votes despite a carve-out exempting some workers that angered a prominent union and threatened to split the Democratic caucus.
Ms. Gonzalez's heart may be in the fight place, but there can many unintended consequences to her proposed law. Retail would be hardest hit. (For the record, she does admit that some people must work such as police, fire fighters, and those in hospitals.)
In this economy, the loss of Thanksgiving business could prove fatal, or at least highly detrimental, to a struggling retail operation.
That is one drawback, but there could be others. For example, workers may be enticed to actually work because of the prospect of double pay. When stores weigh the heftier wages against the prospects of more customers they may find that the scale is tipped in the favor of staying closed and they would not be able to offer the deeper discounts given the higher labor costs if demand remains constant. If they use the fact that they are paying workers more as a marketing tool to gain, they could end up making some stores even busier during the holidays, which of course is not what Ms. Gonzalez intended.
Ms. Gonzalez’s heart may be in the right place, but like a carpenter who sees a hammer as the solution to every problem, too many lawmakers see a new law as the solution to every problem. More government diktats in the workplace are not what we need, especially at a time when the economy is fragile.