Too Many Workers Are Being Forced to Choose Between Holidays and Holiday Pay

This Thanksgiving, families will be gathering around the table to eat surrounded by loved ones. Grandparents will sit in front of the television with their grandchildren in their laps, watching football or the annual Thanksgiving parade. Some may decorate trees and turn on Christmas carols to celebrate the start of that holiday season, while others will light their menorahs for Hanukkah.

Unfortunately, far too many families will be broken up, because someone will be forced to go to work or there won’t be any food on the table at all. More retailers than ever are opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day, using it as a means to extend the “Black Friday” shopping spree that companies use to shore up their yearly profits. Stores say they are reacting to consumer demand, and criticism that they are allowing corporate greed to overtake the holiday season is just rolling off their backs.

Retailers are fully aware of the public relations disaster that more employees working the holiday is becoming for their own brands. As such, more perks are being given to employees taking those shifts to try to make working Thanksgiving seem like a treat rather than a punishment. Macy’s, which will be open on Thanksgiving for the first time, ever, is providing those who work in their stores that day with overtime pay, joining the ranks of all the other retailers offering the same. Many companies say they will offer discounts and meals as well.

The irony of potentially getting a meal at work as well can’t be lost on Wal-Mart employees, who, at one branch location were asked to donate food to their own co-workers who might not be able to afford to provide a Thanksgiving dinner to their own families this year.

Corporate PR entities are claiming that this has employees clamoring to work on Thanksgiving Day. That’s likely true. Sadly, they are probably eager to do so in order to see their hourly pay, which hovers in the $8 to $10 dollar range, increased to between $13 and $15 an hour, what most economic sources consider to be an actual living wage.

This leaves workers with families with a huge dilemma. Either they can leave their families for the day, heading into a retailer or other low wage paying job where they can spend the day earning an additional $50 – $150 dollars, money that could be used for presents, food or in many cases just to help make ends meet, or they can remain at home and celebrate the holiday like a number of those in the country who have the advantage of higher earnings, or even better, the luxury of paid holidays. For parents especially, the temptation to work is even greater since a holiday offers the likelihood of available relatives or friends who can provide childcare when most care centers and schools are closed.

Over one third of minimum wage earners are parents, making holidays a grueling choice between time with family and the need to provide. With consumers growing more anxious for the deep discounts offered by retailers on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, and companies more and more desperate to make a profit during a still slogging economic recovery, it becomes a vicious cycle. Without strong holiday period sales, they don’t meet their profit outlook, which then gets reflected in hiring and pay. But they can’t get that without their workers, and to get the workers in, they have to offer them essentially the same wages that those workers should be receiving every day.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, a time for being grateful for abundance, let’s hope we all remember those who want to be with their families but can’t, and the economic system that has put them in that situation.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Debbie Wood
Debbie Wood4 years ago

Just got to read this, been very busy with my grandkids this week. They have been off all week. I did not shop at all this week, except for a quick trip to the Dollar General for milk on Wednessday. I spent the week cooking, cleaning, playing board games with my grandkids, going to the movies with them,(saw Frozen, really good movie, kids loved it and been singing the songs ever since). In other words, we acted like a family during a holiday. We didn't shop for stuff we don't need. We enjoyed each others company, ate together, played together. I have the privilage of being retired so I don't need to work. I would like to see all families have the day off though, like we did. We need time to spend with family, to recharge our batteries, to get out of the rat race. Everything is on high speed these days, no time to just enjoy life. Rich and poor alike need this. Its why we are becoming so mean.

Will Rogers
Will Rogers4 years ago

"They make our life so hard, that everyday we have to keep on fighting". Sang the great Bob Marley, and it's true! They want robots and slaves to give their lives and strengths to satisfy the riches ideals!they tell us that the only way to live is to sacrifice so that everyone can benefit..everyone except me apparently! We wait for Karma to get them, waiting for spiritual retribution to catch up with them, but before that happens we will be dead, having lived a miserable toil filled life, our main regret on our death beds will be that we worked too hard, and it will hurt. Unlike the employers who exploited you, who will live 15 years longer and will die happily.

Lynn C.
Lynn C4 years ago

Holidays are ALL about buying, and buying,and buying...someone has to be there to sell all that crap to you, so yes, you may have to work on a holiday and so what? You h a v e a job, and that's something to be thankful for. Many don't.

Lea Humphrey
Lea Humphrey4 years ago

i don't see the big deal -- when i worked with mentally challenged adults, someone had to be there on holidays. and no, i did not get paid overtime. i was happy to have a job even though it was $8.50 per hour.

John S.
Past Member 4 years ago

Marty, I'm a little corned about you. Workers being forced to decide to work, or not to work for money. Isn't this done every day? Not everyone has a job where they can plagiarize articles (this seems very close to the article written by By Rebecca Leber, Bryce Covert, and Adam Peck that you sourced.

J C Bro
J C B4 years ago


BJ J4 years ago

Holidays/special occasions have become too commercialized, taking away from the true meaning of the day (for those who celebrate these occasions). It's a shame consumerism has caused stores to be open on "special days".

Mercedes Lackey
Mercedes Lackey4 years ago

Walmart will not actually be paying its employees overtime. This is because Walmart calculates overtime pay based on the number of hours you work in a week, and those employees dragged into working Thanksgiving will see their hours cut on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Mike Wilkinson
Mike Wilkinson4 years ago

as we race to the bottom.....screwing the working class Joe and Jill..............want to get me on the factory floor on a holiday .....have a keg of micro brew and a kilo of hashish......otherwise let the owner and management eat each other alive for the privilege of kissing corporate a$$.....cultivating the fine art of a$$ kissing.......