This Thursday, families across Texas will be coming together to celebrate and reaffirm their connections. Thanksgiving has traditionally been a day of rest – one of the few available to wage-earning workers in this country where there are no mandatory holidays. Even public transportation agencies will operate on reduced schedules to allow many of their workers to spend time with their families. Here in Texas, Houston METRO (1) and Dallas DART (2) will operate Sunday schedules on Thursday, and Saturday schedules on Friday.
For businesses, however, Thanksgiving and Black Friday represent opportunities for profit. Walmart is currently advertising sales that start as early as 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, although many 24-hour stores will remain open all day. Target, Kohl's, and Sears will also open their stores at 6 p.m. Workers will likely be required to report for work half an hour or an hour before these times. Add in the average commute of 25 minutes (3), and an employee scheduled to work the 6 p.m. opening would need to leave home between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m. These employees are being forced to give up time with their families for the benefit of their employers.
Walton Family Wealth
It is not simply that workers are being deprived of a traditional day of rest and togetherness. Corporations make money by paying their employees less than the full value of their labor. This value extracted from workers is then distributed to executives and shareholders. One example of this is the wealth of the Walton family, the heirs to the founders of Walmart. While many Walmart workers earn the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour (or $15,080 a year if they're full-time, before taxes), the wealth of the Walton family in 2010 was $89.5 billion, equivalent to the wealth of 41.5 percent of all American families combined. (4)
To support Walmart workers fighting for fair pay and better working conditions, people will be showing up at numerous Walmarts around the world to protest. Check http://www.blackfridayprotests.org/actions for locations in your area. Please remember that in Texas, you will not be able to protest on Walmart property, to include their parking lots and any sidewalks owned by them. The above site also includes more advice on what you can do.
3) United States Census Bureau, Means of Transportation to Work by Selected Characteristics for Workplace Geography (2011-2013 American Community Survey 3-year Estimates). Retrieved from http://factfinder2.census.gov
4) Bivens, J. (2012, July 17) Inequality, exhibit A: Walmart and the Wealth of American families. The Economic Policy Institute. Retrieved from http://www.epi.org/blog/inequality-exhibit-wal-mart-wealth-american/